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Solar farm in East St. Louis would require state legislation

Solar panels are showing up more often on farms. File foto from Fickr
David Goehring | Flickr

A solar power project slated for East St. Louis is waiting on the Illinois General Assembly to pass specific legislation so it can get funding to move forward.

The proposed 24-megawatt solar panel farm would be built on 120 acres, once owned by Alcoa that is contaminated with bauxite residue. Brightfields Development LLC has said it’s the perfect place for a solar project.

"That’s one of the great things is that we can actually take land that has no other use and put it back into productive activity," said John Hanselman, managing principal at Brightfields.

Remediation of the site, including adding two feet of soil cover, began last year and is expected to be completed this spring. Alcoa, along with Southern Railroad, is paying for the estimated $20 million cost of remediation.

Brightfields is hoping proposed legislation will be passed this session to allow partial funding of the $65 million project through Illinois’ Renewable Energy Resources Fund. Previously, the company had proposed passing on costs to rate payers at about 30 cents per year.

Hanselman said this is a better option.

"I think there was opposition in the past to burdening the rate payers with any additional cost, and since we removed that we really haven’t felt any opposition from anyone in the legislature, so we’ve got our fingers crossed," he said.

So far the bill has not made it out of the Illinois House Energy Committee.

If the legislation becomes law, Hanselman said, the project will likely begin construction at Missouri Ave. and 29th Street site this fall. The solar panel farm is expected to create 600 construction jobs and 20 permanent positions.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.