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Solar electricity on the horizon in Forreston

Another solar farm company is knocking on Forreston’s door, and the village board decided to open up.

During Monday evening’s Forreston Village Board meeting, the board voted 5-1 in favor of moving forward with a proposal from Microgrid Energy, a Denver, Colorado-based solar company, to build a pair of solar arrays in Forreston.

Brian Maillet, Director of Policy and Origination for Microgrid, presented the scope of the project to the board.

The arrays would supply electricity to the water treatment plant and the community with 265 kilowatt and 650 kilowatt direct current solar arrays, built on four acres of land at 407 N. Locust St. and the former railroad right-of-way that runs along North Chestnut Avenue, respectively.

The arrays would include 60-feet rows of two feet by four feet solar panels stacked four-long on a fixed tilt, unlike some arrays that will change tilt direction as the day goes on.

All at-risk work, such as the construction and maintenance, will be on Microgrid, providing no up front costs to the village.

Finally, unless the village board decides to prematurely terminate the contract, Microgrid is responsible for all decommission planning and costs.

The proposal details a contract length of 25 years, with which both the treatment plant and the community subscribers could see energy rates of 2.25 cents per kilowatt hour, a 48 percent reduction from the current rate of 4.29 cents per kWh.

However, with the size of the arrays, Maillet said between 40 to 50 percent of Forreston could subscribe for the lower rates.

“Is there any way you could make it big enough to supply the whole town?” asked Trustee Jeff Freeze.

“We’d need more land,” said Maillet.

Maillet said Microgrid would need at least another 20 acres, which could raise complications if they need to extend onto a private landowner’s property.

Metzger said that one condition for his support would be to see communication between Microgrid and the community of Forreston on details of the project.

“The one thing we like to be is transparent, too, so if we move forward, the one thing I would like to do is try to get something where the community can come and ask questions,” said Metzger. “Answer questions, or even give a small presentation - just something to fill them in.”

When it came time for a vote, Jeff Freeze was the sole “no” vote.

““If you’re going to have cheap electricity for one, you need to have it for all,” said Freeze after the meeting. “I’m all for wind farms and solar farms, but it has to be done right.”

The village board meets again on Monday, May 21 at 7 p.m. at Forreston Village Hall, 102 S. Walnut Ave. The meeting is open to the public.