ROCHELLE — Construction of a solar farm on the northeast part of town is expected to begin sometime in the next year after Rochelle City Council members gave the nod on several aspects of the project Monday night.
Rochelle Solar (SunEast) is purchasing 93 acres of land at the southwest corner of the Twombly Road and North Caron Road extension intersection just north of Walmart to produce 13 Mega Watts of renewable energy per year.
The adjacent Rochelle Municipal Utilities substation will be used to transfer the power back for distribution.
During Monday’s meeting, council members voted unanimously to annex the property into Rochelle city limits, change the zoning from agriculture to rural development and accept the company’s final plat for the solar farm footprint.
“Rochelle Solar has been a good partner and this is a great project for Rochelle,” said city manager Jeff Fiegenschuh. “The property taxes will mean more than $90,000 per year to be shared by local taxing bodies and they will also give the city the opportunity to buy some of the energy.”
The annexation agreement calls for Rochelle Solar to pay a $20,000 annexation fee in two installments over the first year of operation, and Fiegenschuh noted that the company is helping make improvements and upgrades at the RMU substation as part of the project.
Prior to the vote, Chris Molander, a business agent for Local Union 364 Electrical Workers, addressed the council to explain how much impact the solar farm project will have for workers who rely on these opportunities.
“These projects are basically temporary jobs for electricians and it takes about 3,500 hours per Mega Watt to complete and that will provide a year’s worth of wages for two families,” Molander explained.
“I want to say that we are thankful you picked Rochelle for this project,” Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows told Rochelle Solar representatives on hand at the meeting. “It’s going to be good for Rochelle.”