Voters will decide on Fondulac Township solar farm

EAST PEORIA — Eligible voters in Fondulac Township will decide Thursday whether to allow construction of a solar panel farm on 18 acres the township owns in Sunnyland.

The township board will host the meeting at 6 p.m. in the Festival Building on East Washington Street. With a unique nod to direct township democracy, during the meeting voters will decide the fate of the project.

“Hopefully it will be something that people will support,” Rick Swan, township supervisor, said Wednesday. “It would be a good revenue source for the township.”

Chicago-based Trajectory Energy has proposed placing 7,000 3-foot-by-6-foot solar panels on township property that is currently farmland between Dundee Road and Cherry Lane. The company would lease the property from the township at an annual rate of $800 per acre with a 2 percent escalation clause for 25 years. That calculates to $461,000 of township revenue over the length of the lease.

The electricity generated by the solar panels would be fed to the Ameren energy grid. Customers could subscribe to the solar service and reduce their monthly electricity bill by about 10 percent, company officials have said. With a positive vote Thursday, Trajectory hopes to start adding solar power to the Ameren grid by 2019.

Only registered voters who live within Fondulac Township boundaries will be eligible to vote on the proposal. Attendees will sign in as they enter Thursday, and their names will be checked against the township’s roll of voters, Kendra Cunningham, the township’s full-time office manager, said on Wednesday. Eligible voters will then be identified with a yellow sticker on their outerwear. The vote will be a show of hands.

Trajectory plans to construct a dozen of the solar panel farms in central Illinois. It is in discussion with owners of several potential properties in Peoria County, but none are as far along in the process as the proposal in Fondulac Township.

The township hosts its annual meeting to approve an operating budget every April, but special town meetings are exceedingly rare.

“I asked the (township) clerk who has been around a long time and he couldn’t recollect a single one,” Cunningham said. “It is very unique.”

Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.

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