Large-scale commercial wind farms won’t be built in Sedgwick County.
County commissioners voted Wednesday to update the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning code with specific policies for renewable energy systems. The new regulations prohibit wind facilities and allow solar array systems.
Dave Yearout with the Wichita-Sedgwick County Planning Department says existing rural development and numerous airports and landing strips leave no viable space in the county for a commercial wind facility.
“We recognize the importance of the aviation industry in the county,” Yearout said.
The county will allow commercial solar energy systems to be built under new regulations that clarify project details.
Yearout says the new policies won’t affect homeowners who want renewable energy options.
“An individual could put solar panels on their own home or their outbuildings," he said. "They could put a wind facility up to 45 feet ... subject to certain setback standards."
Until now, the zoning laws did not include specific rules for a large-scale wind or solar development. Applications for those type of energy sources would be considered in the conditional use permit process.
The county began taking a closer look at its zoning code last February after it issued a moratorium on renewable energy projects. County Commission Chairman David Dennis said at the time that “the moratorium was a pause so the county can be ready for future projects.”
Dennis had attended public meetings in Reno County late last year as plans for an 80-turbine wind farm near the Reno-Sedgwick County line were moving forward.
In June, after lengthy public hearings, Reno County commissioners denied NextEra Energy a permit to build the wind farm. That wind farm could have generated an estimated $39 million in tax revenue and payments for Reno County.
Sedgwick County officials have said at least two companies have land leases in the western part of Sedgwick County — mainly in Dennis’ 3rd District — for future wind farms and solar arrays. There are no pending applications for a wind or solar project.
Sedgwick County’s moratorium expires in November.