Randy DeBaillie has installed solar panels at his farm in Orion, Ill. Across the flatlands of Illinois, a new crop is rising among the traditional waves of grain. Hundreds have applied to host acres of solar panels on their property, a move encouraged by a state requiring that renewable resources provide 25 percent of Illinois power by 2025.
DeBaillie checks his solar panel monitors at his farm. The panels produce enough energy to run his entire operation, DeBaillie said.
Randy DeBaillie’s great-grandfather emigrated from Belgium during World War I. Four generations of DeBaillies have worked the land in the northwest corner of Illinois.
Randy DeBaillie plants corn and soybeans each spring, but this year he also wants to add solar panels across 15 acres on his farm. DeBaillie said prices last year for the state’s most prominent crops were far below original projections, and farmers can earn more on the same fields by leasing land to solar energy companies.
Randy DeBaillie reads the meter for his solar panels. He can also check on the panels’ energy production from his phone.
Proposals for community solar projects have become so popular that Illinois is hosting a lottery to determine who will be awarded contracts to sell solar electricity to large power companies in the state, which then delivers it to subscribers.
Randy DeBaillie walks over a field near his house where he hopes to install 15 acres of solar panels.