Sierra Club Solar Siting Successes

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Over the last six months, Kansas Sierra Club has focused on getting reasonable siting standards in place for county guidelines for utility scale solar facilities.  Planning Commissions in Johnson and Douglas Counties in northeast Kansas have been grappling with developing appropriate standards, which could become the model for other counties.   During months of research and discussion, conflicts arose among landowners with different vested interests and among County leaders trying to balance land use management plans, projected municipal growth, and economic development opportunities. Sierra Club members organized to submit public comment in support of solar siting guidelines that acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and that encourage development of large-scale renewable projects.

On May 4, the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved final guidelines for commercial installations (utility scale solar). The project size is limited to 1,000 acres, defined as the area occupied by the solar modules; the BOCC can approve modifications. A 500-foot setback from residences for solar modules and battery storage areas is specified. A 25-foot buffer is required along site fencing and between property lines of the site and adjacent non-participating property owners unless waived by the property owners. The maximum term of the conditional use permit is 25 years.

On June 6, the BOCC of Johnson County overruled the restrictive recommendations of its own Planning Commission and adopted siting guidelines for utility scale solar. The decision concluded over a year’s work on the issue. The Commissioners voted to adopt a 25-year term limit for conditional use permits for the farms, a 2,000-acre maximum project area, and a 1.5-mile buffer from neighboring city limits. Kansas Sierra Club leaders provided formal comment on behalf of its members at several public meetings.