FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker, 11-2-20

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

(The Center Square) – A bill that strips local control from county governments regarding zoning matters on wind and solar energy appears to be close to becoming law. 

The legislation, which passed in the lame-duck session of the previous Illinois General Assembly, would provide counties with “guardrails” for siting wind farms, and would create a commission that would oversee and approve wind turbines everywhere but Chicago. 

Supporters say the measure is needed to better attain the state’s renewable energy goals. 

“I think it's very important if we are going to move forward with some of the goals we have regarding the expansion of renewable energy,” state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, said.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said the measure takes away control from local county boards.

“As long as the developers submit their development within the siting standards, they can put a wind farm within 6 to 700 feet of the closest home,” Rezin said.  

The state law would create a setback requirement of 1.1 times the maximum blade tip height of the wind tower to the nearest point on the property line of nonparticipating properties, or 2.1 times for nonparticipating residences.

The Illinois Farm Bureau opposed the bill, saying the setback distances in the legislation needed to be adjusted to better reflect a safer and adequate way for the facilities to be sited. 

The measure is now on the governor's desk. 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Tuesday in Decatur talks about House Bill 4412

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he plans to sign the legislation into law, said it is needed so projects are not held “hostage” by local opponents. It is a reversal from remarks he made before November's election. During a farm legislative roundtable in August, the governor was asked if he would support legislation to create statewide controls over the siting of wind and solar projects.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker during an event hosted by the Illinois Farm Bureau Aug. 24, 2022. 

“No, in fact I’ve specifically avoided that,” Pritzker said then. “I don't think that's the way. We’ve got to have a continuous conversation, the one that we’ve been having for years now between the state and local governments and local control so that we decide together about siting.” 

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.