Lake County preparing for surge in solar energy proposals
Lake County will be adjusting land-use regulations and taking other measures in response to an increasing interest in solar energy.
The county board on Tuesday is expected to direct the Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals to conduct a public hearing regarding potential changes in the Unified Development Ordinance related to solar energy systems.
Those systems are described as ground and/or roof-mounted solar arrays and related equipment at varying sizes and scale.
Regulations tailored to solar power are needed because of increased financial incentives, community demand, interest from developers and lower costs due to advances in technology, according to county officials.
The county expects to convene a solar energy task force in March to create a model ordinance in cooperation with several communities. That ordinance would be used as a template for towns to develop their own solar-specific regulations in advance of an expected wave of proposed projects.
"About a dozen (solar developers) are interested and we expect more," said Hannah Mulroy, senior planner/project manager with the county's planning, building and development department.
State incentives available through the passage of a clean energy law known as the Future Energy Jobs Act is driving the renewed interest in solar power.
The law, which took effect on June 1, 2017, provides incentives for a variety of solar applications, including rooftop and smaller-scale installations, as well as larger proposals known as community solar projects.
"We do know it's just going to keep growing," Mulroy said.
The zoning board's public hearing would be held in advance of specific proposals, to minimize delays in considering solar energy regulations for unincorporated areas after the model ordinance has been created.
In a related matter, the county through consultant Quercus Consulting has issued a request for proposals that involve three scopes of work: installing solar on county buildings, installing solar on county-owned land, and developing community solar projects in conjunction with 11 communities for subscription solar service.
At least three school districts in Lake County -- Mundelein District 75, Big Hollow District 38 in Ingleside and Warren Township District 121 -- also are proceeding with companies that will apply for state incentives to install solar arrays on district land.