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Solar power company plans on talking individually with neighbors over concerns

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SALINE COUNTY, ILLINOIS (WSIL) -- Plans for a solar farm in Eldorado are the talk of the town, and many residents are worried about the project and plan on addressing those concerns at the upcoming county board meeting.

The project by Tenaska is estimated to be a $135 million investment and sit on about 2,600 acres of private farm land, which would produce enough electricity for about 28,000 households per year.

Most homeowners near the site are okay with the solar project itself but not possible changes to agreements.

They say some of the farmers leasing land and Tenaska want to go back on regulations saying the project has to be 600 feet away from their properties. By closing that gap, it would allow for the company to install more solar panels.

Jennifer Hofsman grew up in the area and lives just down the road from her childhood home. She wants it to be the same for her children as they grow up.

"As a mother, I'm very concerned about my three children being raised by a solar farm," she explains. I do not want my children to live near a solar farm. We're asking 600 feet away from our home that we built three years ago."

Her parents, Larry and Cathy Parks, still live in the same spot where they built their home 41 years ago.

Cathy also wants the original agreement to stay in place over the 600 feet setback, and if solar panels are any closer she fears it could cause her homes value to go down.

"We take pride in where we live," Cathy explains. "I had hoped one day that my children or grand children would possibly want to live there after we're gone, but right now I don't know even they would even want to with what's coming,"

News 3 reached out to Mike Roth, who is the Director of Strategic Development & Acquisition, for a comment over the growing concerns on the setback regulations being reduced from the 600 feet and here's what he had to say:

"Large-scale solar in still new to Saline County and, naturally, residents have questions. We encourage residents with questions to visit our local office and speak with our local representatives Randy Vickery and David Martin. They are local points of contact for the community to learn more about the project, in addition to our website:

We continue to have positive discussions with Saline County leaders. It is important to them and to us that we have a good dialogue with project neighbors. We are beginning those conversations. Over the next few weeks, we will be reaching out to individual neighbors of the project to answers their questions and discuss potential concerns.

We believe a solar field is low impact and will provide many economic benefits for the community. We are hopeful that neighbors will agree."

Cathy's husband Larry brought up additional worries that he plans on addressing to county board members such as roadways being torn up as solar panel equipment is transported in Tenaska trucks, farmers near the site having to shut down equipment if wind conditions could carry debris toward the panels, and how much money the county will actually see.

The board meeting will take place on Thursday, July 22nd at the courthouse starting at 6:30 p.m.

Brooke Schlyer

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