LTE: Zoning officials ‘crucify’ all renewable power development in Osage County – Osage County Online | Osage County News

LTE: Zoning officials ‘crucify’ all renewable power development in Osage County

Dear Editor:

Half Price! Who doesn’t love a half price sale?

Recently FreeState Electric Coop was able to modify our power supply contract with Evergy that powers our member’s homes, farms, and businesses. We currently buy virtually all of that power from the Evergy grid at a blended cost depending on generation mix and fuel cost. This contract modification made in early 2021 allowed up to 10 percent of our power to come from solar sites, either customer owned or sited next to our substations to be fed out on our distribution lines. As quickly as possible we identified three suitable substations, and put out for bids to build the solar arrays. Eventually the coop contracted with Evergy to build these three sites, with a 30-year fixed cost of power roughly half price of today’s grid power cost.

When our substation near Carbondale was identified, an adjacent landowner agreed to sell the 8.7 acres needed to build the 750kW solar array. Surrounding landowners were notified and no opposition has been voiced. Soon the Freestate Coop members would be sharing the benefits from the monthly $14,000 power cost savings. All of this came together in early 2022. The Planning and Zoning Commission had just approved a 10-acre 1000kW similar system for Osage City. We were on the home stretch. Then came the “Moratorium”. And eight months of waiting.

At this point we were put on hold, unable to communicate with the county. One self-proclaimed utility “expert” on the zoning board was free to spread whatever “facts” they wanted to, such as Freestate planning to build eight solar sites all over the county. That was news to me, a FreeState board member. We were never allowed to present formally to the zoning board or even have Q&A or tours of our other sites.

We did get our five minutes at the public comment meetings, but it was apples and oranges inserting our small local project in with the commercial wind proposals. Reminiscent of Pilate in Matthew 27, the zoning board faced the red shirted sign-waving mob and voted to crucify all renewable power development in Osage County.

It isn’t final until the county commissioners act on that recommendation They still have the opportunity to consider the interests of the 1,100 FreeState members living in the county being somewhat different than multinational for-profit corporations pushing commercial wind projects.

Serving on any public board is a thankless job, so if you see any of the zoning board members thank them for their time. And if you are a FreeState Coop member, also thank them for the giant lump of Osage County coal they just put in your stocking!

Larry Butel

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