If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
(TAYLORVILLE) — The Christian County Zoning Board of Appeals met to consider three project Special Use permits for solar and solar related projects Tuesday night in the Courthouse in Taylorville. After shifting locations twice, one of the permits was approved with changes; another denied completely; and a third tabled for more consideration.
Chairman Jame Overheat called the meeting to order with two members, Joe Dorr and Jerry Merker were absent. The meeting was moved to the third floor of the Courthouse into Courtroom “A” due to a crowd of more than 40 people on hand to start the meeting.
The first request from Skyline Solar, LLC, was approved with some changes. Leticia Lew of Skyline requested a change in the already approved Special Use Permit to change the location of the interface connection to Ameren lines and to move an access road to the south of the property.
There were several residents of the area who objected to the change because the felt the quality of their lives would be effected. Lew said the south interface point was the first proposed, but Ameren asked the point to be changed to the north part of the property, which was approved. However, after the plan was approved in May, Ameren changed their minds and wanted it back to the original southern location.
Lew also said the company also wanted to make the access road entrance at the south end off of Glenhill Road. But this change was not well received by the local residents. They complained vehemently about the change. Brian Burge, a resident nearby, said by moving the access road to the south, it was much closer to homes in the area and would cause dust and connection on the road. Larry Kemmer, another resident, also complained about closeness of the road to heavily traveled Glenhill. One resident complained the road was only about one lane wide and with the large trucks and solar panels being moved in and out, it would congest the road more than it already suffers. A woman resident said she and her family use the road to walk and ride bicycles and it would be a safety hazard.
All of the objectors also complained about the unsightliness of the Taylorville Water Treatment Plant which they also said was in their backyard. They said a promised berm and vegetation (tree) plantings were to hide the site, but when the trees were only two-feet tall, it is going to take awhile for them to grow and do any good. Residents also complained about the lack of road maintenance in their subdivision. The addition of the solar farm would cause their property values to decline, they said.
Lew then told the Board the vegetation would be trees five or six-feet tall and not a dwarf variety. She also said the company could abandon the access road change and stick with the original north entrance.
Following a few more questions, the Board voted to allow the access point change portion of the requested permit, but to deny the change to the access road point. They also added a road maintenance agreement between the company and the Taylorville Township Road District and the county be in place and to have Zoning Officer Blake Tarr to review the vegetation plan submitted by Skyline to determine whether it is viable.
The second item, a Special Use Permit for Pivot Energy for a solar farm to be located on the southwest edge of Pana, was rejected by a 4-0-1 vote, with Chairman Overholt abstaining. No one from Pivot was in the audience to present information about the project.
But there were several objectors, all of who complained they were adjacent property owners and had not been notified of the hearing in the first place. They also objected to the placement of a solar farm – said to consist of 12,000 solar panels – near their properties.
Following this vote, there was a recess and with less people in attendance, the meeting moved back to the second floor County Board Meeting Room to facilitate a presentation by Sangchris Energy Center to construct a battery energy storage system.
Will Frost, representing Sangchris Energy, a subsidiary of East Point Energy based in Charlottesville Va., presented the proposal for the to house an array of batteries to store electrical energy. It would be located on a track of land, about three miles directly south of the current Dominion Power Plant between Kincaid and Pawnee. While no construction budget was revealed, Frost said during his presentation it was “a nine-figure investment.”
The project area would consist of about 45 acres, 30 of which, Frost said, the storage units would be located. It is located at 150E Road. To the west, the boundary is 1400N Road.
Directly overhead of the facility are power lines which carry energy from the Dominion Power Station. With the decommissioning of the power plant coming, Frost said they would be able to utilize the capacity which would come available. He said power would be available from nearby 4,000 to 5,000 acres of solar generating panels which are nearby. Frost said the facility would send out electricity as well as have power come in to store.
The company is still also asking for an extension to the Special Use Permit which would take then to the end of 2027.
Frost said one of the drawbacks of placing the facility at the location is the problem of mine subsidence. However, he said more geological work is being done to determine if such a problem exists, but with the relatively small footprint of the project, he didn’t feel it would be much of a problem.
He also said the company has been in contact with the Midland and Pawnee Fire Protection Districts to brief them about possible emergency procedures and will see to it each department has the proper equipment and training in its use.
Also discussed was a scenario known as “thermal runaway.” This is when batteries meltdown and catch fire, as has been a problem with lithium batteries recently. All of the batteries in the facility would basically be made of lithium, such as those types of batteries found in a typical cell phone – only on a larger scale.
Frost said each of the units (about 30 of them) are self contained and any fire could be contained inside the individual building.
In terms of taxation, there would be a slight increase in the tax paid. Currently, real estate taxes bring in almost $2,200 per year. With the facility, Frost estimated that would increase to between $7,100 to $7,800.
The Board voted unanimously to table any action, pending “consultation” with an unnamed consultant and further study on mine subsidence and drainage issues.
Following the vote, the Board immediately adjourned at 8:38 p.m., ending their two-and-a-half-hour meeting.