Highland, Illinois sees growing interest in possibilities of solar power

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HIGHLAND, Ill. – The sun is a hot topic in Highland, Illinois.

“Seems to be almost daily,” says Dan Cook, director of Light & Power for the City of Highland. “This morning I came in (to the office) to two messages of people wanting to talk solar. I had calls yesterday from people wanting to talk solar. So it’s definitely increasing. It’s getting on a roll.”

The small town has seen an increase in inquiries into alternative energy sources.

“We have eight residents with solar systems on their roofs, one commercial facility currently constructing a solar array on a roof of their facility,” Cook says. “We’ve seen a big uptick in the amount of solar requests in the area.”

While a handful of residents and businesses are interested in adding solar panels, so are others. The city has received at least 10 inquiries into adding solar farms in and around Highland, and they say a Chicago-based company wants to convert a 28-acre field into solar panels producing 2 Megawatts of electricity.

“The firm is interested in looking at some areas that would be suitable for a solar farm,” says Highland City Manager Mark Latham. “What the city has had to do since they’ve signed a lease for that is actually prepare ordinances that allow solar farms within the city limits.”

Across southern Illinois, solar farms could be popping up in Marissa, Belleville, around Madison County, and more. It’s all thanks to the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act of 2016.

Two solar farms have been approved in Highland. As applications and funding are finalized, expect to see more solar farms across southern Illinois in the near future.

“Many of the old coal plants and nuclear plants are starting to dwindle down a little bit,” says Latham. “So there has to be this alternative providing whether it’s wind or solar or whatever.”

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