By Sam Jack
Last Wednesday, Aug. 21, the Sedgwick County Commission voted unanimously to ban construction of commercial wind farms in the county.
Commissioners pointed to the prevalence of airports and airstrips in the county: There are 31 in total. To ensure safety, each of them needs a turbine-free buffer of between 3 and 10 miles, according to three different studies cited by the commissioners.
Draw five-mile radiuses around each airport and airstrip in the county, and you’re left with sparse land for commercial wind energy.
“There are no wind energy systems that are looking at Sedgwick County,” commissioner Lacey Cruse noted. “Out of the 105 counties in Kansas, maybe there is another county that is a better fit for these big-scale wind energy conversion systems.”
The process that led to the wind farm ban started in January, when county commissioners asked staff to study the issue. The commission passed a wind farm moratorium on Feb. 6, which was later extended to Nov. 10.
Public hearings in June revealed scant support for wind farms and considerable sentiment in favor of a ban. Around the same time in June, Reno County commissioners denied a permit for NextEra Energy to build a wind farm that would have been located near the Reno-Sedgwick county line.
Last week, the county also approved new requirements for commercial solar installations. Those who want to build solar farms in Sedgwick County will have to conduct a “Glare Hazard Analysis,” and submit detailed plans and environmental assessments. The new rules don’t affect residential or small-scale installations.
“Going forward, solar panels will still be welcome in our community,” commission chairman David Dennis said in a statement. “Kansans have a long history of being good stewards of our natural resources, and I’m pleased to continue that tradition in Sedgwick County.”