Carbondale residents explore the future home of a solar farm


Reporter - Kathryn DiGisi

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Developers plan on constructing a 60 million dollar solar farm on a 130-acre plot off Marion Street in Carbondale.

A curious group boarded a van to explore what used to be a wood treatment plant.

The plant closed its doors in 1991 after decades of operation.

"After 1991, a lot of the buildings came down, the railroad tracks that came in and out had been removed," said tour-guide Jeff Holden.

When the plant closed, more than 100 acres of beautiful land was left.

That land sits practically in Carbondale resident Rodney Morris' front yard.

"I came here 25 years ago and my relatives had property on 9th Street and I ended up inheriting the property," said Morris.

Unfortunately, the plant also left behind the toxic chemical that plant employees used to coat railroad ties.

Morris says the chemical seeps into the soil and threatens the water.

Pete Pederson with Brightfield Development says this project has already begun to remedy that problem by a process called "capping."

"Some of the waste was left on site and the EPA who oversee this site deemed that the safest response to it," said Pederson.

Besides pristine conservation land and eventually a bike trail, the project's main attraction will be one of the most expansive solar farms in the region.

"This array that you're looking at is roughly 20 mega-watts of solar panels and 20 mega-watts in round numbers powers about 4,100 average houses," said Pederson.

Morris says he was impressed by the project and wants to see it continue.

"My family has established itself in Carbondale and plan to be in Carbondale," said Morris.

Not just for himself, but for future Morris generations.

When the solar farm is completed in 2015, Brightfields Development says it is likely that Ameren Energy will purchase it.

They will then be able to power whatever they choose in an environmentally responsible way.