EAST PEORIA — Voters in Fondulac Township on Thursday approved a lease agreement with Chicago-based Trajectory Energy to bring 7,000 solar panels to Sunnyland. The vote to approve the solar energy project was 46-0.

"The value of the project to this community is great," said Rick Swan, township supervisor. "It will mean green energy, jobs, lower energy bills and will be used as an educational tool in our schools teaching about solar energy."

The lease agreement allows Trajectory to place 7,000 3-foot-by-6-foot solar panels on 18 acres of farmland between Dundee Road and Cherry Lane. The company will lease the property from the township at an annual rate of $800 per acre with a 2 percent escalation clause for 25 years. That calculates to $461,000 of township revenue over the length of the lease.

Although Fondulac Township was first, Trajectory plans a dozen more solar panel projects in central Illinois. It is in negotiations to lease several parcels in the area. The company is looking for properties of at least 20 acres with good exposure to sunlight.

"I guess we are the poster child for the rest of the projects," Swan said.

Small to mid-sized solar operations were approved by the state Legislature last December. Electricity generated by the panels would be fed to the Ameren energy grid. Customers could suscribe to the solar service and reduce their monthly energy bill by about 10 percent, company officials have said. Trajectory intends to install the solar panels in 2018 and begin adding solar energy to the Ameren power grid in 2019.

The township owns an additional 40 acres of land next to what will be the solar panel farm. Officials plan to use that property for the expansion of Fondulac Cemetery. That would be an administrative decision and would not require another special town meeting vote, officials said.

The current Fondulac Cemetery is about 80 percent full.

Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at shilyard@pjstar.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.