Butler County Commission approves new regulations for solar farms
EL DORADO, Kan. (KAKE) - If you drive through the Flint Hills, you’ll see waves of prairie grass all around. Its that prairie grass that Butler County residents are eager to protect.
One woman spoke in front of the Butler County Commission on Tuesday about the area saying, “The Flint Hills are beautiful. We have a lot to appreciate and promote.”
The commission listened to her and others that packed that room. It passed 4-0 new regulations for solar farms that will ban any being built in the majority of the county.
The rules were in response to a project that was proposed back in April that many in the county opposed.
"We didn't really have any rules and regs in place at the time," Butler County Commissioner Kelly Herzet told reporters Tuesday. "This was a very large solar farm, you know, about a 500 million farm with, I think over a million panels.”
A lot of push back specifically came from residents in the Lincoln township just north of El Dorado, where that potential project was slated to go.
Ray Connell, a local attorney who represented people living in Lincoln who apposed the project, says many residents didn't want to live near solar panels and were afraid what they might do to the ecosystem in the area.
"Agriculture is the primary industry here in Butler County, and a lot of the prairie grass would go away, affecting the cattle industry and the ability to produce livestock." said Connell. "The runoff and what effect it would have on the ground from those solar panels was a concern."
Herzet says the planning board has been working for months on these rules, getting resident and business feedback to find a compromise. He thinks all that work paid off.
"That doesn't mean that a smaller farm might not appear in the Augusta area or the Rose Hill area or in the Potwin area or someplace like that, but it definitely will not be a very large scale solar farm in the Flint Hills."