Sunrise Energy Ventures wants to build a solar garden in Macomb. The Macomb City Council has signed off on the idea by approving the sale of 17 acres to the company.
A solar garden is a small scale solar farm. Roger Brown is Sunrise Energy’s man on the ground covering Illinois. He said an operation this size can produce about 2 megawatts of energy which he said is enough to power about 600 homes.
Sunrise Energy is not affiliated with Ameren Illinois, but it would need the utility's cooperation to access the power grid. Brown said the solar garden's close proximity to Ameren's substation will help the project.
“The closer you can be to the substation, the less infrastructure you have to have and you don’t have to move the power as far,” Brown said.
This project is close to home for Brown, who lives in Macomb. He is retired from Western Illinois University, where he worked as an instructor in Business and Technology and also for the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs.
Brown said he is helping Sunrise Energy expand into Illinois.
“At the end of the year, Illinois put into law some new rules about solar being a part of a renewable portfolio standard. So in anticipation of that, we are out looking for suitable locations to build solar farms,” he said.
Brown said he is working in a number of places around the state, but declined to provide any information regarding how many projects are in the works or their locations.
Sunrise Energy is based out of Minnesota and also operates solar farms in North Carolina, New Mexico, and Indiana.
Macomb Mayor Mike Inman said Sunrise Energy has indicated it intends to begin construction within 18 months. He said the 17 acre lot was the last parcel available in the city's business park. Aldermen agreed to sell it for $306,000.
Inman said the property has been underutilized since the business park opened in the 1990’s. It is currently leased to a local farmer.