Eastern Lancaster County neighbors express concerns over possible solar farm

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 9:49 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Concerns are rising in eastern Lancaster County as word that a potential solar farm may be in the works.

While the details are still unclear, the possibilities have neighbors sounding off at a public hearing held Wednesday afternoon, hoping the project burns out before it’s even started.

The potential area for the solar farm in Lancaster County is east of 112th Street between O Street and Havelock Avenue. This solar farm could possibly impact an area spanning 2,600 acres or almost close to 5 square miles. This plan, which could very well move forward, isn’t sitting well with surrounding neighbors.

“None of us bought our properties thinking we’d have a solar farm,” said one resident at Wednesday’s meeting.

He was among the dozens who showed up at the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission, opposing new zoning in eastern Lancaster County. That zoning could turn some of the land there into a solar farm.

“Don’t allow them to put solar panels around clusters of homes. They don’t belong there. I can’t put them up in my own house because the same developer that owns our outlot has written in our covenants that I can’t put up solar panels,” one neighbor said.

The developer behind this proposed project is Ranger Power. They say this area is a good location to place the possible solar farm since it’s close to existing load centers between Lincoln and Omaha.

Sean Harris, Ranger Power’s Vice President of Development said, “The project needs to interconnect to the transmission grid, and there’s a good location for the project to interconnect to the east of Lincoln.”

Neighbors in the area spoke on concerns like fire safety, health matters and on many people’s lists was the worry of a decrease in property value.

“I plan on living on my acreage until I can’t take care of it. When I want to sell it, I want to actually be able to sell it,” said Mick Von Busch. “I haven’t spoken to a single person that would buy my house if there are solar panels 100 feet from it.”

There are also concerns about transparency, but Ranger Power says nothing is finalized.

“We have taken notes on concerns that were raised today and plan to continue to work with the community to address those concerns and work with folks to make sure that this works for everyone,” Harris said.

However, at planning commission, not a single person spoke in favor. Nearly all were in agreement with a father who brought all 8 of his kids to the meeting to show how upset he was. “To say that they’re just solar panels is reckless and is very irresponsible. We have been less than notified about two months ago about a potential solar farm that we’d end up seeing. This is going to affect our house,” he said.

The initial recommendation before the meeting from planners was to approve the zoning changes, but at Wednesday’s meeting, they didn’t approve or pass anything. That could change at the next meeting, which is two weeks from July 21, 2021.

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