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Knox County approves option for landfill solar project

A green sign pointing to the Knox County landfill.
Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio
The project calls for solar arrays on portions of the county's landfill east of Wataga that have been closed.

The Knox County board approved an option to lease 40 acres of land at the county landfill for a 13-megawatt solar project.

The project with Massachusetts-based Ameresco Solar calls for solar arrays on portions of the landfill east of Wataga that have been closed.

The company has been working on similar landfill solar projects with several Illinois communities.

Knox County Board chair Jared Hawkinson said the company likes to focus on Brownfield sites, which are commercial or industrial sites that are abandoned, underutilized, or idled.

“Landfills are great because typically they are large and flat,” Hawkinson said.

He said in addition to utilizing Brownfield acreage for green energy, the project will generate income for the county.

The 20-year lease negotiated by acre will pay the county $31,500 in the first year, with a 2% escalator each year after that, Hawkinson said.

Ameresco will also pay an estimated $1.2 million in property taxes over 25 years, and the company will handle maintenance on the 40 acres, reducing county expenses.

Hawkinson said Ameresco will steer the project through EPA guidelines and other state regulations.

“We’re expecting by the end of the year, they will have all of their permitting done and have gone through the zoning process,” Hawkinson said.

The project is expected to be complete in 2025.

Plans for the landfill solar project in Knox County date back to 2018, when the board approved an expression of interest with TerraNavigator, which was later acquired by Ameresco.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.