Solar plant may be coming to Carbondale

A solar plant that would convert the sun’s energy into usable energy, could be headed to Carbondale, Illinois.

For more than a year, the city has been talking with a developer who wants to turn an old industrial site into a 70-acre solar farm.

Some people in the community, are worried the project is headed to a dangerous location.

Starting back in 1902, the area was a bustling wood treatment plant.

Pepper Holder remembers those days well.

“I worked out here trucking the cross tires and telephone poles,” said Holder.

He says the plot is contaminated with a chemical called Creosote that was used to coat railroad ties so they would not rot.

City Manager Kevin Baity says there is plenty of Creosote on the site, and for that reason not much can be done with the land.

“Could never be used for a residential neighborhood, it couldn’t be used for a grocery store, it couldn’t be used for a school,” said Baity.

But he says the area could be used to capture the sun’s energy and convert it into a form usable by energy companies, and eventually, you and me.

“They will then take the power that is generated there and push it into a substation,” said Baity.

Holder says construction of any kind could be risky there because of the toxins the old plant left behind.

“There will be portions of excavation here that will cause, no doubt, some runoff,” said Holder.

He says he has seen the harm creosote can cause.

“I know people who have died,” said Holder.

Baity says he knows the city cannot please everyone.

“If we were to go out and take 70-80 acres of farmland out of production to put a solar field on, then I’m sure we would hear concerns by environmentalists saying, ‘you’re taking green space, why can’t you do something else?'” said Baity.

Soon, it will be up to the council to decide the fate of the old wood treatment plant.

Next Tuesday the council will vote on whether or not to give the developer a Special Use permit.

If the project is to go through, it will take three years to construct the solar panels.

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