Will County OKs two solar farms in Crete Township, but first requires search for snakes

The Will County Board recently approved two solar farm projects in Crete Township proposed by Soltage LLC, with a condition of a snake survey on one of the projects.

Crete Cottage Grove Solar 1 will be a solar farm at South Cottage Grove and West Munz Road and Crete Goodenow Solar 1 will be a solar farm at East Goodenow and Dutton roads, said Stephanie Sienkowski, director of development for Soltage.

Both projects will have battery energy storage systems, which required special use permits, Sienkowski said. The projects were approved in separate 13-9 votes Aug. 17 by the county board.

Sienkowski said for the Crete Goodenow Solar 1 project, the county will require a solid fence instead of a chain-link fence and a snake survey.

“There was the potential for a threatened or endangered snake species on the site, and we have to do a survey and make sure none of those snakes are on the site,” Sienkowski said.

If snakes are found on the land, Sienkowski said the company has agreed to follow Illinois Department of Natural Resources and federal guidelines for protecting endangered and threatened species.

The Crete Goodenow Solar 1 project will be built on nearly 30 acres and create 3.5 megawatts of power for about 775 homes, Sienkowski said. The Crete Cottage Grove Solar 1 project will be built on nearly 34 acres and create 3.42 megawatts for 750 homes, she said.

Homeowners will be able to subscribe through a third party aggregator to get power, she said.

“We’re really thrilled about it,” Sienkowski said. “We’re happy that the county and the state are so open to solar.”

Sienkowski said work still needs to be done to reach an interconnection agreement with ComEd and create final engineering plans for building permits.

During the 40 years life expectancy of the projects, Sienkowski said the company maintains the land and plants pollinators. Once removed, the company ensures the land isn’t ruined.

“At the end of the day, the project restores the land,” Sienkowski said.

County board member Frankie Pretzel, a Republican from New Lenox, said he supported the projects mainly because a recent state law redefines county governments’ ability to regulate new commercial wind and solar energy projects. The law prohibits county government from banning or establishing moratoriums on wind and solar development and establishes siting and zoning standards.

“Our legal team is telling us that we don’t have a choice on these solar farms. Instead of going into a legal battle that I don’t think we’d win, I voted in favor of the solar farms,” Pretzel said.

Board member Sherry Newquist, a Democrat from Steger, said she supports solar farms and voted in favor of the projects to benefit her district.

“I felt comfortable moving ahead and approving it,” Newquist said. “It can have a direct economic benefit for people if they subscribe to the project.”