Will County Increases Focus on Attracting Green Industries
Coordinated efforts include allowing for battery energy storage facilities – One of the first counties in Illinois to permit this growing industry
Will County leaders are calling attention to an increased focus on attracting green industries to the local economy. This follows several coordinated initiatives to attract the clean energy industry to Will County, including energy storage and transportation.
“We recognize that green jobs are the future,” said County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. “Will County elected leaders and local stakeholders have been working hard over the last few years to attract industries to our communities. We’re positioning the county for a clean energy revolution that will significantly boost our economy.”
The Will County Board recently voted to allow for battery energy storage facilities to open in unincorporated areas, empowering a growing clean energy industry to grow in Will County. Battery energy storage facilities store energy produced by renewable energy sources during periods of low-cost or over-production, to be later distributed to community electric grids when there is an increased need for power.
This zoning amendment makes Will County one of the first local governments in Illinois to allow for these facilities. The amendment to the zoning ordinance classifies battery energy storage facilities as minor utilities that are permitted in industrially zoned areas.
“This simple change in zoning helps keep Will County at the cutting edge of the clean energy industry,” said Will County Board Land Use and Development Committee Chair Tyler Marcum. “I’m excited to see more and more energy companies opening their doors or moving to Will County in the near-future.”
Companies specializing in energy storage are projected to grow following the 2021 State of Illinois Climate & Equitable Jobs Act, which calls for the state to move towards 100% clean energy by the year 2050. The State of Illinois has also initiated a Coal-to-Solar Energy Storage Grants Program to provide incentives for companies to install energy storage facilities at the sites of former coal plants.
The County has also recently initiated an Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan to build upon state and regional initiatives to create transition plan to zero emission vehicles. The plan aims to identify locations for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and to support the increased demand for electric personal, commercial, and freight vehicles.
The plan will identify a strategy to address barriers for electric vehicle ownership, including for residents and communities with lower incomes, lower levels of home ownership, and gaps in charging infrastructure.
“The Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan is a significant step to ensure that Will County’s infrastructure is prepared for the green economy,” said Will County Board Public Works and Transportation Chair Joe VanDuyne. “Our coordinated efforts are creating forward-thinking opportunities to bring new jobs to Will County and prepare us for a more energy-efficient future.”
These initiatives coincide with an increased effort by the Will County Center for Economic Development (CED) to attract green industries to Will County. The CED has noted recent successes, including the growth of energy efficient production companies opening their doors in Will County. Both Lion Electric in Joliet and Hyzon Motors in Bolingbrook are projected to bring nearly 1,500 jobs to the region.
“Green energy is a strong, growing cluster in Will County that supports future economic growth,” said Doug Pryor, President and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development. “Our talented workforce and robust education system create a base of skilled labor that will allow these businesses to thrive. Companies like Lion Electric and Hyzon Motors provide a great foundation that will attract more companies in related sectors looking to invest in the region.”
The CED has also spotlighted the growing interest of energy companies in Will County communities. This includes the state-of-the-art G&W microgrid project in Bolingbrook that utilizes automated power generation and storage. Will County is also home to two of the largest rooftop solar arrays in the Midwest, the Magid array in Romeoville and the IKEA array in Joliet.
“Will County is open for business,” added Bertino-Tarrant. “We are going to continue working together to bring good-paying jobs to all of our communities. The growing clean energy industry presents an opportunity to diversify our economic landscape.”