Developer proposes multimillion-dollar solar farm near Marengo

MARENGO – A clean-energy developer is eyeing a 110-acre agricultural lot just outside Marengo for a solar farm.

SunEast Development, Enel Green Energy and Energy Renewal Partners are planning the project together under Marengo Solar LLC. The $25 million to $30 million development plan calls for about 60,000 solar panels on the site, which is close to a large ComEd substation, said Reed Willis of SunEast Development.

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The city will have to annex the site at Johnson Road and West Grant Highway for the project to move forward, according to planning documents.

Developers hope to file for permits by the end of the year.

They already have done boundary surveys on the site, and they would like to be up and running in two years, Willis said.

SunEast is a wholesale electric provider, and there might be room for Marengo to tap into that clean energy once the site is in use.

“We won’t sell to people locally. We are selling wholesale to large industrial,” Willis said. “Some municipalities might be interested once the project is further developed.”

Willis said the life of the solar panels is about 40 years, and if the company leaves after the panels aren’t viable anymore, there won’t be any harm to the land.

“The benefit of solar is that it’s a very small footprint,” Willis said. “When we are done, we will guarantee to get the equipment off, and the land can go back to agricultural use.”

SunEast, acting as the commercial manager for the project, has 25 other projects under development in eight states.

Enel Green Power operates more than 100 solar and wind projects in the U.S., Willis said.

The project would create about 100 construction and service-related jobs while it’s being built, and the city would get a bump in revenue – about $40,000 a year – from the property taxes associated with the land, according to planning documents.

Interim Marengo City Administrator Josh Blakemore said the next step is dependent on when the company submits a formal petition for annexation.

“Where we left off, the City Council gave an informal blessing to move forward,” he said. “They would submit the petition for an annexation agreement. … We would have to amend a zoning ordnance to allow for this.”