Solar Plant Opens in Rochelle

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ROCHELLE (WIFR) -- The Earth's resources are not unlimited and businesses around the world are coming up with new ways to cut back and save money. One local government is thinking ahead and adding renewable energy to help power some of its utilities.

Rochelle Municipal Utilities has tried to stay ahead of the curve over the last 118 years with its Internet, electricity and countless other services. And today, it's taking another step to save money and ultimately allow themselves to invest back into the community.

"By being able to generate electricity through the sun and power the sewer plant, we are actually lowering our costs," says Jason Anderson, economic development director. "That's where it makes sense where if you're going to have renewable energy, it's got to make financial and economic sense and by virtue of what we're doing here today, it makes a lot of sense."

RMU used a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and $350,000 of its own money to open a solar plant. More than 1200 panels will be used to power 45 percent of the next-door water treatment facility. It costs about $180,000 each year to run the water plant. However, this should save RMU about $80,000.

"It's right here. The energy goes right into the treatment plant through the feeders coming in there so it's right in our distribution system," says Dan Westin with Rochelle Municipal Utilities. "What we're doing here with renewable energy is all based on financial bottom line. If it didn't make sense from a financial point of view, we wouldn't do it."

RMU leaders say they have plans to expand and add more solar panels and when those are eventually installed, the energy created from the panels will power the entire water treatment facility and there will even be energy to spare which can be distributed to the rest of the community.

And a natural gas plant may be coming to Beloit. Alliant Energy is proposing a new plant near Beloit by 2019.

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