By Howard Packowitz
BLOOMINGTON – McLean County’s first three solar farms are a step closer to becoming reality.
The county’s zoning board of appeals voted unamiously Wednesday night to recommend the county board approve Cypress Creek Renewables’ application to build a solar farm in Downs Township and two more in Arrowsmith Township.
The decision came on the second night of a public hearing, much quicker than the nine sessions required for the same board to unanimously endorse Invenergy’s request to put up 100 wind turbines in five northeastern McLean County townships.
Solar farms are less controversial because there’s little if any noise, and they don’t tower above the farm land like the turbines.
Supporters also noted solar farms do not permanently remove the sites from traditional farmland use. Solar arrays are removed when the leases run out, typically after 20 to 40 years, according to the developer.
Cypress Creek attorney David Streicker told the zoning board the county has become a trailblazer in the renewable energy space.
“I’m optimistic about McLean County because it always has been on the vanguard of this,” said Streicker.
“It’s got a very strong ordinance with strong protections,” he added.
Cypress Creek says it’s investing $11.7 million in the project, creating 75 jobs, and providing enough electricity to power 963 homes.
The county board votes on the solar and wind farm projects at its February 20 meeting.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at howard.packowitz