Frequently Asked Questions
Find out answers to common questions about solar energy and the Gibson City Energy Center - Solar 1 Project.
What size is the solar project you are developing?
We are building a 135 MWac solar project in McLean County.
Where is it going to be built?
We are building a solar development project in the eastern portion of McLean County within five miles of our natural gas plant in Gibson City.
When will you seek zoning approval?
Exact timing depends on a number of factors, but our current plan is to submit applications for McLean County use permits in the next few months.
When will you start construction?
The start of construction will depend on a number of factors including the county permitting process. Generally speaking, however, construction could begin as soon as next year if the project is approved by the county.
How long will it take to complete construction of the project?
Depending on the size, it takes between 9 to 18 months to construct a utility-scale solar project. However, the actual timeline from project conception to commissioning can take three or more years due to the approval and permitting processes.
What is the lifespan of the project?
The solar project will generate clean, renewable energy for a projected 30 years.
What happens at the end of the project lifespan?
Earthrise Energy is responsible for decommissioning projects when they reach the end of their lives, and is required to set aside dedicated funds to cover the costs associated with decommissioning the solar project, removing all equipment and restoring the land to its preexisting operations, when it reaches the end of its operational life.
What is the impact of the solar project on my energy bill?
Utility-scale renewable energy projects like the ones we are building can help reduce energy bills for consumers. Solar energy is one of the cheapest forms of energy available today and can lead to lower costs. However, your energy bill that you get from your local electric utility is composed of a number of different charges that impact your overall bill. Increasingly, for example, the construction of transmission lines has led to increased electric bills. Our solar projects reduce the need for the addition of large new transmission line development because we are building our projects near existing transmission infrastructure.
Do solar projects reduce neighboring property values?
Research conducted across the US indicates that solar projects do not impact neighboring property values. A study conducted across Illinois determined that the value of properties within one mile increased by an average of 2% after the installation of a solar project.
Will the solar project create a noise disturbance?
Solar panels don’t make any noise. Certain equipment that is part of the project like solar tracking systems may make some small amount of noise during the day when they tilt to follow the sun's movement. Inverters may also make some noise similar to what you’d experience with a dishwasher. However, most people won’t hear any noise due to their location and setbacks required for the panels.
How will the construction project impact roadways?
As part of the permitting process, Earthrise Energy will have to conduct a comprehensive study to identify the roads that will be used and the frequency of the road usage during construction. Under a road use agreement with the county, Earthrise Energy will be required to maintain or, when required, even upgrade those roads to ensure those roads remain operational during and after construction.
In terms of traffic, local residents will see an increase in light construction vehicles, pickup trucks, and flatbeds delivering equipment, during construction.
Will the solar farm increase runoff or flooding?
No, storm water management plans are a required part of the solar development process. The land under the solar panels that are installed is not paved and is typically covered with native plants to absorb rain and runoff and help recharge groundwater. These plants can prevent erosion, improve soil quality, and support biodiversity.
What is the impact of solar on birds and wildlife?
Solar energy is among the lowest impact forms of energy available. It does not generate any air or water pollution. In addition, Earthrise conducts wildlife studies to minimize the impact any solar project has on native species and complies with all local, state and federal government regulations.
Do solar panels create a fire hazard?
Solar projects have no substantial fuel source to support a fire. The panels are primarily metal and glass.
What are solar panels made of?
Solar panels are made of glass, polymer, aluminum, copper, and semiconductor materials that can be recovered and recycled at the end of their useful life. Like a car windshield, should a panel crack, it will stay intact.
Can you recycle solar panels? How will you dispose of the solar panels?
Yes, many components of a solar panel can be recycled. Glass composes most of the weight of a solar panel (about 75 percent). Other materials that are easily recyclable include the aluminum frame, copper wire, and plastic junction box. More broadly, the solar industry is taking a variety of steps to improve the lifespan of solar panels and working on ways to improve recycling.At Earthrise, we follow very stringent environmental and decommissioning guidelines and will return any leased property to the state it was found as required by our lease agreements.
Why are you building solar projects on rich farmland? Isn’t it better used as farmland?
First it is important to note that the land is not being taken out of production permanently. The projects are long-term, but after decommissioning and end of the leases, the land will be suitable for farming or other uses as landowners see fit. Solar projects are a way to preserve agricultural land for future generations. The Illinois Farm Bureau has referred to this as “delayed production.” Second, we are building projects near our existing thermal plants and leveraging the existing infrastructure already in place. This is what allows us to offer lease rates to farmers that compete with or exceed agricultural value.
What is the long-term environmental impact of using farmland for solar?
Solar projects can provide much needed rest for farmed properties and allow the land to be returned to productive agriculture after the solar projects are decommissioned and fully removed.