EL DORADO, Kan. (KSNW) — The Butler County Commission voted Tuesday to restrict the size of a solar farm to no more than 2,500 acres. It also prohibits such development in the protected Flint Hills Eco-Region.
The decision comes after a company submitted a proposal in April for a large solar farm facility that would’ve been almost 4,000 acres in size. Moving forward, any new solar farm must be three miles outside of any city limit as well.
The main concern of residents was protecting the native grasslands in the Flint Hills Eco-Region.
“We would like to have a decision today make it’s been a long road for the Lincoln township people. A number of them are here. They’ve attended the meetings because they are concerned,” said El Dorado resident Ray Connell.
The Butler County Commission voted 4-0 in favor of the new regulations.
“They love the Flint Hills, they love the native grass, they want to leave the native grass. Who knows when you set that panel up 10 or 15 feet in the air? The runoff of water, is it going to change the flow of water? Is it going to kill the grass,” said Butler County Commissioner Kelly Herzet.
OneEnergy Renewables, a solar energy company based in Seattle, Washington, had a representative at today’s meeting. The company plans to propose a 600-acre project. They have already been working with local farmers and plan to lease land, saying it wouldn’t impact the Flint Hills Eco-Region.
“Tilled, Cultivated, or otherwise disturbed, and is not in Tallgrass Prairie. We believe that protecting the rights of the county’s land owners to make a living on their land in a responsible way that does not degrade the community or the environment is imperative for the community,” said Nathan Stottler, OneEnergy Renewables Project Development.
Future applicants will also have to meet set-back guidelines of not being closer than 150 feet to a public road and 1,000 feet from a residential dwelling.