School district revises plan for solar field in Long Grove

 
 
Updated 3/13/2019 7:52 PM
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  • The owners of Windward Farm, which covers at least 200 acres in Long Grove, are questioning plans for a solar field proposed on three acres of the bordering Woodlawn Middle School and Country Meadows Elementary School campus.

      The owners of Windward Farm, which covers at least 200 acres in Long Grove, are questioning plans for a solar field proposed on three acres of the bordering Woodlawn Middle School and Country Meadows Elementary School campus. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Kildeer-Countryside Elementary District 96 Superintendent Julie Schmidt says costs are adding up for revisions being made for a solar panel proposal on three acres of a 69-acre school campus near Gilmer and Diamond Lake roads in Long Grove.

      Kildeer-Countryside Elementary District 96 Superintendent Julie Schmidt says costs are adding up for revisions being made for a solar panel proposal on three acres of a 69-acre school campus near Gilmer and Diamond Lake roads in Long Grove. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

A Buffalo Grove-based school district has further revised its controversial plan to install solar panels across three acres of its property in an effort to gain support from objecting neighbors and the Long Grove village board.

Kildeer-Countryside Elementary District 96 officials submitted the tweaked proposal shortly before Tuesday's village board meeting. The board postponed a final vote on a special-use permit for the ground-mounted solar array so officials can examine the proposed changes.

"Because everything came in so late, I haven't seen anything," Village President Bill Jacob said.

District 96 wants the solar panels on three acres of a 69-acre school campus near Gilmer and Diamond Lake roads in Long Grove. District officials say the solar farm would provide about 99 percent of the electricity used at two schools there.

The solar field, expected to cost about $3 million to install, would also provide educational opportunities for students at Woodlawn Middle School and the adjacent Country Meadows Elementary School, district officials say.

District 96 Superintendent Julie Schmidt said the costs are adding up to satisfy concerns about the panels' being an eyesore.

"We're now at a quarter of a million dollars for all of these redraws and engineering and (topography) just on the redesigns," Schmidt said.

Critics include Cobblestone subdivision residents and the prominent James McHugh Construction Co. family. Patricia McHugh has questioned the solar panels' proximity to the family's 200-acre-plus Windward Farm and whether they'd fit Long Grove's rural character.

At Tuesday night's Long Grove village board session, additional tweaks to the proposal by District 96 were unveiled. They include a longer berm and planting of several evergreens to shield the solar array from homeowners.

District 96 previously altered its plan to reduce the area for the ground-mounted panels from four acres to three acres. The district also agreed to have a higher-quality 8-foot privacy fence and additional landscaping, part of an effort to hide the project from the McHugh family's horse farm and the Cobblestone subdivision.

Jacob said even more screening could be warranted to ensure the solar panels would not be seen easily from the homes. However, Trustee Anne Kritzmire disagreed, saying much has gone into working toward a compromise.

"I do think that, part of what I'm hearing you say, to me, feels like we're striving for perfection, and that's not necessarily going to happen," Kritzmire told Jacob.

McHugh attorney Matthew Holmes said the family intends to have its engineers review the revised proposal.

Solar panel fields have been popping up at school districts throughout the suburbs. In September, ground-mounted panels were installed at Prairieview School in Hainesville as part of an initiative throughout Grayslake Elementary District 46 that officials say will reduce electricity costs and offer educational opportunities for students.

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