Kansas Senator may hamper the state’s solar growth in new bills


Sen. Mike Thompson of Kansas (R) introduced new laws that would require solar and wind facilities to be built only on lands zoned for industrial use. About half the state’s 105 counties are rural and unzoned, so the bill could effectively freeze renewable energy growth in the state. 

Kansas already uses a fair amount of renewable energy when compared to other states, and the Energy Information Association reports renewables powered 44% of Kansas’ operation in 2020. 

“It would be sending a message…that, well perhaps Oklahoma, or Missouri, or Nebraska, or Texas or Iowa would be a better and more stable state in which to invest dollars,” said Kimberly Svaty, public policy consultant for the Kansas Power Alliance, which represents the state’s clean energy industry. 

“In the case of the next generation energy economy, renewable wind is really the beginning,” Svaty added. “It’s wind, it’s solar, it’s battery storage, it’s dealing with nitrogen replacements among many other things, all of which Kansas is standing to be really well positioned to see unprecedented investment from the economic standpoint.” Kansas had the nation’s second highest wind energy generation in 2020. 

State Senator Mike Thompson, Republican.
Image: KS Legislature

Thompson said the bill is not about slowing renewables, but about transparency. “All I’m trying to do is make it so that (wind and solar developers) have to file something so that neighbors can kind of see what’s going on and understand it,” Thompson said. “Because obviously if you have a 500 or 600-foot turbine that’s going to be placed on your neighbor’s property but it’s 1,500 feet away from your house, which was happening quite a bit, there are health and safety concerns that you want a say over.” 

Industry advocates say the bill is an example of government overreach, forcing zoning upon counties that have chosen not to be zoned. Thompson said he is working to revise the bill to consider other options than tackling zoning, but has not yet commented on whether it would be removed. 

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