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Sedgwick County wants more time to plan for wind, solar developments

The Sedgwick County Commission on Wednesday will consider a measure designed to give it more time to craft regulations for potential future wind and solar energy projects.

The commission will vote on a moratorium that temporarily suspends the issuance of conditional-use permits for wind and solar energy projects within the county’s unincorporated areas.

Chairman David Dennis says there are already some leases for such projects in western parts of the county.

But, because Sedgwick County doesn’t have regulations within its zoning code to specifically standardize use for wind or solar projects, Dennis says the moratorium is designed to give it time to make sure it adequately addresses issues if any lease is executed and becomes a full-scale project.

“We are trying to give us time to develop the rules and regulations,” he said.

Dennis told the Wichita Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders participants last week at a panel discussion that alternative energy projects were getting closer and closer to Sedgwick County.

“There’s a huge wind farm that’s going in over in Reno County, right against the Sedgwick County border,” he said last week. “We have to look at those types of economic developments also. One of the things you’re probably going to hear a lot about in the near future is what are we going to do in Sedgwick County for wind energy and whether or not we’re going to have big wind turbines somewhere in Sedgwick County.”

Dennis says the county wants to look at all related issues, some of which he has learned in talking with Reno County, including everything from the training needed for emergency services to respond to a situation at wind farms, to the impact of such projects on roads and bridges.

County documents indicate that the moratorium being considered this week would remain in effect until Aug. 12, though it could be extended, amended or ended early by commission approval.