Three people asked Shawnee County commissioners June 13 to deny a permit request that would enable a solar farm to be created at 4306 SW Auburn Road.
took note, and responded by sending that proposal back to the county planning commission.
But no one spoke in opposition Thursday as commissioners considered — and this time approved — a revised version of the permit.
The situation was resolved because neighbors and the companies involved — Evergy and FreeState Electrical Cooperative Inc. — worked together to come up with “an agreement that everybody can live with,” said Commissioner Kevin Cook.
He thanked them for doing that.
The county’s system for dealing with conditional use permit requests had worked the way it should, said Commissioners Aaron Mays and Bill Riphahn.
Still, Riphahn said, the circumstances suggest Shawnee County needs to put regulations in place regarding solar energy and wind energy.
Farm will feature 5,720 solar panels
The permit approved Thursday will enable Evergy and FreeState to jointly operate a solar farm on 13.71 acres owned by John and Pamela Eagan, who had agreed to sell that property if the permit was approved.
Energy from the farm will be transmitted to the nearby FreeState electrical substation to its south, and used locally.
The farm will be composed of 5,720 solar panels, standing at a maximum height of 12 feet, according to a document in the agenda packet from the commission’s June 13 meeting.
Evergy and FreeState initially planned to put up a 6-foot-tall, chain-link fence around the solar farm, but the measure approved Thursday calls for that fence to instead be eight feet tall.
Residents first had concerns about heat, glare, noise, traffic control
The Shawnee County Planning Commission, a volunteer body that advises the county commission on planning and zoning matters, voted 4-2 on May 9 to recommend county commissioners approve the permit request.
But Mays, Cook and Riphahn voted 3-0 to send the proposal back to that commission on June 13, after hearing three people, including two neighbors, voiced concerns.
They brought up matters that include noise, glare from the solar panels, soil erosion, traffic control, increased heat and a potential negative effect on ham radio traffic.
The planning commission then voted 4-1-1 at a special meeting on June 27 to recommend county commissioners approve a revised version of the proposal.
Commissioners voted 3-0 Thursday to approve that version.
How is the new proposal different?
Chris Carey, a consultant with Topeka-based ppB Enviro-Solutions, told commissioners Thursday that his company worked with Evergy and FreeState to “create a game plan” to deals with concerns they’d heard.
Joni Thadani, the county’s interim planning director, said the plan was revised to arrange for the closest solar panels to be located much further than was previously proposed from SW Auburn Road and the nearest house.
The permit also requires Evergy and FreeState to take steps to deal with erosion.
After installation, any disturbed soils are to be planted with a mix of pollinators and native grasses to help deal with soil erosion, it says.
Thadani said a glare study that Evergy and FreeState had conducted showed that glare from the solar farm wouldn’t significantly affect people driving past in either direction on SW Auburn Road.
Still, Evergy and FreeState have developed a glare mitigation strategy, in case it does become a problem, she said.
The solar farm’s effects regarding noise and ham radio interference will be negligible, Thadani said, with its four electrical motors producing a level of about 65 decibels noises at 100 feet.
The solar farm’s presence also isn’t expected to generate “heat island” effects resulting in significantly increased temperatures, Thadani said.
Temperatures may be as much as 3.7 degrees higher during the day but will cool completely in the evening, she said.
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-213-5934.