Tilton Mayor Dave Philips welcomes a community solar project on the former GM Foundry site in Tilton.

“I think it’s good. You can’t use it for anything else,” Phillips said about the land.

The site at Interstate 74 and North G Street was one of three selected in Vermilion County in this week’s solar energy tax credit lottery by the Illinois Power Agency in Chicago.

The other two sites are in the 3800 block of East Main Street, near the Danville Correctional Center, and at 150 North Road, Ridge Farm. All three have different solar energy vendors.

The Illinois Commerce Commission still must approve the projects.

According to the website for the Illinois Power Agency, Illinois Shines is the brand name for the Adjustable Block Program — a state-administered incentive program supporting the development of new solar energy generation in Illinois.

Participation in Illinois Shines can be done in one of two ways: host a new solar photovoltaic system on a rooftop or property, directly offsetting energy usage; or as a subscriber to a community solar project — a large, centralized solar project for which someone “subscribes” to a share of its output.

For a new solar photovoltaic (PV) system to participate in Illinois Shines, an approved vendor applied to the Illinois Power Agency for that PV system to be part of the program. The program provides payments in exchange for 15 years of Renewable Energy Credits. These payments will help offset the cost of the new PV system or community solar subscription.

Participating in Illinois Shines, means playing an important role in helping the state meet its renewable energy goals, according to the website. According to the Illinois Power Agency, not all applicant projects can be supported in the program’s first phase, and they hope to support many additional projects in future years.

Phillips said they’ve been in discussions about the old GM site for a while. The proposed 2000 kilowatt community solar garden sites have to be near substations.

“It will be good. It will be out of the way,” he said about the solar panels.

There’s a wait list under the lottery of several other solar energy proposed projects with varying kilowatt sizes. Vermilion County wait list sites include in Tilton, Westville, Fithian, Georgetown, Lynch Road in Danville, rural Danville, Voorhees Street in Danville, an additional East Main Danville site and Ridge Farm.

Businesses that were accepted for large distribution generation solar energy sites included Aqua Illinois, Quaker Danville, Prairie States Warehouse, Mustard Seed Daycare in Rossville, Walmart, Parks Company in Fithian Rossville-Alvin School District and a few homes and sites such as in Bismarck.

Vermilion Advantage President and CEO Vicki Haugen said early on in this process seven to eight solar energy companies started contacting them about putting in bids on land and the projects having to be within a certain distance from electricity substations.

Vermilion Advantage hasn’t been involved with all the local proposed projects.

Bob Ervin, area manager with Aqua Illinois, said “we are looking to complete a solar energy project down at our water treatment plant.” He said they received the good news this week on the proposed project in the lottery process.

Aqua is working with Sol Systems out of Washington, D.C., to install about 7,000 solar panels on land northeast of its water treatment plant at 1285 W. Fairchild St. It’s a 20-year lease agreement with Aqua, and can be extended, and construction by Sol System could occur by the end of the year, officials say.

In a project overview from Sol Systems and Aqua it’s stated the project is a “first of its kind 2MW renewable energy development in Danville.” It will produce 3,300 megawatt per hour of energy in one year, which is equivalent to avoiding 2,564,000 pounds of coal burned or taking 500 cars off the road.

Ervin said most people won’t be able to see the solar project. It will be surrounded by a security perimeter fence and setback 100-plus feet from neighboring properties.

The only noise will come from the inverters which convert system electricity into usable electricity. The devices have a noise level of 60 decibels (equivalent to normal conversation) from 3 feet and from 100 feet the noise is barely audible, (equivalent to quiet rural area), according to Sol Systems officials.

The electricity will be used by the Aqua Danville water treatment plant to help keep operating costs low, Ervin said.

Ameren has studied the project and confirmed it won’t have impact on the neighboring electrical grid, he added.

Ervin said they’ve only just started talking to neighbors and there will be a study too with the OSF HealthCare Sacred Heart Medical Center’s helipad and helicopters nearby and any reflection issues.

“I think this will blend in with the location,” he said.

Ervin didn’t have estimated savings to the water company with the solar panels, but said it will be “significant.”

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