Illinois Governor Rauner recently signed two bills to support solar development conditions for Illinois farmers and rural areas. They are SB 486 and SB 2591. The first creates a standard tax assessment value for local solar farms in Illinois. The second sets standards for the construction and deconstruction of solar farms on agricultural land. Lesley McCain, the Executive Director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association, answered some questions for CleanTechnica about the legislation.
It’s important to create a level playing field for the solar industry and local communities. Establishing a statewide formula for solar farms to pay property taxes ensures that every county in the state will benefit equally from the revenue created by solar development. The law also gives solar businesses a clear understanding of their responsibilities. These standards will help solar continue to move forward in Illinois and create new jobs and more clean energy.
2. What was the genesis of the solar property tax legislation (SB 486)?
The legislation was the result of negotiations between solar businesses, local school boards and taxing bodies. By working together, these groups created the framework for legislation that was passed unanimously by the Illinois General Assembly. The solar property tax legislation follows the precedent set in Illinois law for assessing the value of wind energy facilities.
3. Under the legislation, each megawatt (MW) of ground-mounted solar installed in Illinois will generate an average of $6,000-$8,000 per year in property tax revenue. Who will pay it?
The solar companies that own and operate the projects will pay the property taxes. These taxes support local schools and public services.
4. SB 2591 sets standards for the construction and deconstruction of solar farms on agricultural land. Why is that necessary or beneficial?
Illinois farmers who are interested in leasing land for solar now have certainty that their land will be protected during a solar farm’s operations and returned to its prior use once the project reaches the end of its life. This is an important measure that ensures that solar development and agriculture can work together.
4. What was the genesis of SB 2591?
The rapid growth of solar power in Illinois raised questions about land use from local governments and agricultural groups like the Illinois Farm Bureau. The solar industry engaged with these groups to clarify how responsible solar development can create income for farmers, protect land and improve soil and water quality. These discussions helped create legislation that was unanimously approved by the Illinois General Assembly. The solar farmland legislation follows the precedent set in Illinois law for mitigating the agricultural impact of wind farms, electric transmission lines and pipelines.
5. How will the bills help Illinois reach its statewide goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025?
These laws create a clear structure for solar energy to grow while clearing potential roadblocks to development. With good ground rules in place, we can be certain that reaching Illinois’ renewable energy goal will benefit local economies as well as the environment. Solar is already creating jobs, low-cost electricity and new tax revenue across Illinois – now that we have these rules in place, we can expand solar’s growth in the prairie state.
6. Why is it important that land will be restored to its prior use at the end of a solar farm’s life?
Agriculture is a central part of Illinois’ economy and culture. It’s important that solar developers treat land responsibly so that it will continue to produce for future generations.
Image Credit: Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0