DE SOTO, Kan. (WDAF) — The City of De Soto is figuring out how it’ll handle what could be the largest solar farm in the nation, which City leaders expect to eventually pop up near Panasonic’s $4 billion electric vehicle battery plant that is under construction right now.
On Thursday, City leaders approved a permitting process to allow a Utility-Scale Solar Facility (USSF) of up to 3,000 acres that could create between 600-800 megawatts. Industry experts say that much energy could power roughly 500,000 homes at the same time.
“It’s a zoning regulation change that sets the policy procedure and some parameters for an ultimate applicant that we think will come forward eventually,” said De Soto City Administrator Mike Brungardt.
The solar facility would be limited to the Astra Enterprise Park, formerly known as the Sunflower Ammunition Plant. While the U.S. Army removes what remains from decades of making explosives and other weapons, Panasonic is building its new plant, which could attract additional manufacturing soon after.
That additional industry is welcome in De Soto but could present infrastructure challenges.
“There is a local and regional limit to the baseload power capacity in the area, and so the solar field of this scale will generate a substantial amount of power that is a green energy solution,” Brungardt said.
Mayor Rick Walker says it would add to the progress De Soto has already made in establishing itself as a green energy hub.
“It won’t put any pressure on City services, so it’ll allow us to grow, develop the rest of the park without adding additional pressure on the infrastructure that we’re building,” Walker said.
Already, Brungardt says Savion Energy has been working with Astra Enterprise Park’s owners to potentially build solar facilities in the future. Long approval processes related to the regional electric grid, says Brungardt, means any Savion project is still more than a year into the future.
Since the permitting process in De Soto only allows for the USSF to be built in the Astra Enterprise Park, Brungardt says he doesn’t anticipate similar challenges that have popped up with other solar projects elsewhere.
“It’s a challenge to get a facility this large in an area that’s like Johnson County, but we have a unique opportunity as well,” Brungardt said.