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Legislation would increase distance solar farms could be near housing

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(The Center Square) – A bill at the Illinois statehouse would increase the distance solar farms could be placed from homes.

Currently, commercial solar energy facilities can be located within 50 feet of a home and 150 feet from a multi-family residence, but proposed legislation would increase that to 500 feet.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, sponsors House Bill 4135 and said many residents in his district don’t want to live next door to a solar farm.

“We don’t know what the health concerns might be of a solar farm, we don’t like the way they look, we’re concerned about how it might impact property values,” DeLuca said. “Those are the three most common concerns I would hear.”

During a House Energy and Environment Committee hearing this week, Michael Morthland with the group American Clean Power Association said changing current Illinois law would set the state back in its clean energy goals.

“By doing so, we would jeopardize investment and revenue performers for local land owners, it would halt job creation and cut local tax revenue that schools and rural communities have come to rely on,” Morthland said.

Not all communities have welcomed solar facilities with open arms. Recently in Bureau County, a zoning committee denied a conditional use permit for the construction of two solar farms citing concerns over safety and decreasing home values.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker last year signed into law a measure that strips local control from county governments regarding zoning matters on wind and solar energy. The law provides counties with “guardrails” for siting wind and solar farms, and creates a commission that oversees and approves wind turbines everywhere but Chicago.

State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, said property owners should have a say in where a solar farm is located in their community.

“They worry about their health, they don’t want this right behind their house, they don’t want it right on the edge of their property line,” Meier said. “Counties and the voters and the Illinois residents that live there should have the right to help decide where they’re going to be set.”

The bill was advanced by the committee by a 19 to 6 vote.

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