New Illinois law gives municipalities, counties sole authority for wind farm rules

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier this month signed into law a bill, HB 2988, that gives counties and municipalities sole authority for establishing standards to develop wind farms in the state.

The law, which went into immediate effect, stipulates that only a county may enact zoning regulations in rural areas outside of the jurisdiction of incorporated cities, even if there are not county-wide zoning regulations. The law resolves a dispute that arose last year in Douglas County where EDP Renewables North America wants to build a 200 MW wind farm.

Douglas is one of the few counties in Illinois that does not have county-wide zoning rules but does have regulations for wind farms. When two towns in the county, Newman and Murdock, passed zoning regulations stricter than the county’s, EDP Renewables filed suit against the towns. The new law ends that dispute.

The towns’ rules would have required setbacks for wind farms up to five times greater than the county required. The new law puts the distance from the property line to a wind turbine at 110% of the height of the wind turbine.

Illinois’ House of Representatives passed HB 2988 in a 95-to-12 vote in late March. The state senate passed the bill earlier in April in a 43-to-7 vote. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams and Sen. Bill Cunningham, both Democrats.

“We can’t let unnecessary government regulation block the creation of high-paying jobs and the much-needed property tax revenue wind farms will produce for our schools,” Cunningham said in a statement.

“Illinois has over 3,500 megawatts of operating wind capacity, and under my administration, we're going to further embrace our clean energy future and take bold action to combat climate change,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Pritzker has pledged to put Illinois on a path toward 100% clean energy.

In early April, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a renewable energy procurement plan as part of the state’s goal of deriving 25% of its electric power from renewable resources by 2025.

The plan directs the Illinois Power Agency to procure renewables from the state’s investor owned utilities. The plan approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission also allows customers and projects within the territories of public power and cooperative utilities to participate in state renewable energy programs, such as the Solar for All program that provides offtake contracts for community solar projects.