SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Some who live between Maize and Colwich off 53rd Street North want the county to slow down and allow residents to gather info before a solar farm proposal could come up for a vote.
“I’m told there will be a meeting with the energy people on Wednesday with landowner,” said William Podlena, who lives near the proposed project. “And I will be there. I want answers.”
Some of those answers include what a solar farm would look like and what it would mean for the county and Kansas.
“My neighbors and I have all been told the power is going to Oklahoma,” said Podlena. “There’s a 10-year tax abatement on this thing. Where’s the value for Kansas?”
Scott Wadle is the director of the Wichita/Sedgwick County metro planning and zoning department.
“The company has contacted us. They have had questions about the process,” said Wadle. “They just wanted to learn what all would be required for an application, and so as part of those conversations, they have indicated that they do intend to submit an application.”
KSN reached out to Invenergy and got a reply. Erica Huffman is the director of public affairs (Oklahoma) for Invenergy of Oklahoma.
“The Chisholm Trail Solar Energy Center is a proposed 103.5 MW solar power generation facility,” Huffman told KSN. “The project is currently in the development phase, and we anticipate construction beginning in late 2024 or early 2025 with targeted operations by 2026. More than $35 million is projected to be invested in local tax revenue and landowner payments over the life of the project. Community feedback is a critical part of the development phase, and public meetings will start to be scheduled as we progress through the permitting process.”
Wadle says the company would be applying for a conditional use permit and not a change to zoning laws.
“What we call a solar farm. And that’s defined as a solar conversation system where it’s a stand-alone setup of solar panels for the purpose of generating electricity, not as part of a secondary use for a facility,” said Wadle. “And so in that instance, the zoning code requires a conditional use in order for property owners to put that use on their property.”
KSN reached out to commissioner David Dennis since the proposal is in his district. Dennis said he would hold off on commenting right now because this could come up for a vote, and he wants to remain neutral.
Meanwhile, some landowners in the proposed area, like Podlena, say they have been invited to talk to Invenergy officials in a private meeting on Wednesday.
“I hope to get some answers,” said Podlena.
“Who pays to clean it up when it is decommissioned? All the things you can think of to ask, I don’t see the payback,” said Podlena. They better come around with something is in it for Kansas.”
Wadle says before it would possibly go to a vote for county commissioners to approve or deny the request, there would be public hearings to be scheduled at a later date.