As humanity continues to understand the importance of finding a reliable, clean, and renewable energy source, more and more people are turning to solar power. The amount of energy that can be harvested from the sun is exponential when compared to traditional methods, and solar companies across the country are beginning to notice.
After passing the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016, the state has seen an increased demand for solar power. Several energy providers have in turn been scouring Illinois’ vast farmland for ideal locations to plant a farm of their own; in the previous year, over nine separate solar companies approached Dr. William Drake in a fevered, gold-rush-like bid for his 145 acre plot.
“I’m just the farmer leasing the sun,” stated Drake after choosing to lease his land to Chicago-based renewable energy company Summit Ridge. Their contract lasts for 25 years and sees Summit Ridge building the solar farm, paying taxes for the land, and maintaining the grounds after the farm is built.
Each solar farm covers 14 to 15 acres, and is capable of producing 2 megawatts of power; since Drake’s property can hold nine farms, and 2 megawatts is enough to power 750 to 1,000 homes, the ability to plug just his plot alone into the city’s power grid could supply people with all the energy they’d ever need.
Think about how much money you spend on heating and cooling your home as the seasons change, or how much money gets pulled through your old windows and poorly insulated walls; it’s estimated that proper insulation alone can reduce energy costs by nearly 40%, but if your energy is already fully covered by the hidden solar farms dotting the countryside, then that’s extra money in your pocket!
Unfortunately, constructing as many solar farms as possible isn’t the solution to everyone’s monetary problems. Solar companies are required to submit applications to the Illinois Power Agency if they’re planning to build farms; if more than 75 applications are submitted (which Summit Ridge President Mark Raeder thinks is extremely likely), applicants will be pulled from a lottery.
However, if Summit Ridge gets drawn, Ameren customers in the surrounding Highland area will have access to the solar farm’s production.