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Saunders County approves solar farm

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 6:27 PM CDT
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SAUNDERS COUNTY, Neb. (WOWT) - There will be a solar farm constructed in Saunders County. Despite earlier this month when the county’s planning commission voted 5-1 against a conditional use permit for the project.

The county board of supervisors trumped the planning commission’s decisions. It was a 6-0 vote.

Community Energy and OPPD made their case saying the project meets the county’s zoning and legal requirements. Officials say the solar farm is safe, good for the environment, and will create jobs and produce millions of dollars in tax revenue for the county.

“These new taxes represent over 30 years about nine and a half million dollars to Saunders County, approximately 214,000 annually would go to Yutan public schools,” said Page Bolin, Community Energy.

There were more than a dozen people who spoke in favor of the project.

“I’m ecstatic what they can do with that money, computers labs, new artificial turf for the football field,” said Kevin Rogers.

“If this county doesn’t take it, other counties will, other school districts will. I feel there are some positive things in this and especially taxes,” said Alan Meyer.

About the same number of people spoke against the solar farm. Many living close to the proposed project site.

“We do not believe that this project is in the best interest of the resident who live near the project. The residents of the county as a whole, the best use of the land,” said Toni Schlotman.

“The rushing of the project the planning board clearly stated that they thought strong-armed and rushed and that should have been taken into consideration. More time should have been put in place for this to be reviewed. From the start of this project, it has been plagued with mistakes due to its rushed nature and lack of transparency. Please do not make another mistake this morning,” said Teresa Akeson.

It was a standing room only in today’s county supervisors’ meeting. Officials from OPPD were pleased that so many people in the community showed interest in the project.

Community Energy Solar will build the solar farm and sell the energy to OPPD.

“We do that specifically so we can take advantage of some tax incentives that come from the federal government and that keeps our prices low for all of our customers, owners,” said Mary Fisher, OPPD.

Many in the crowd say they did not get proper notice that the solar farm was being considered in their area.

“There were a large number of folks who did not get their letters until even May 7th, two weeks after the meeting was held,” said Rebecca Ringer.

Supervisor Doris Karloff has a financial interest in the project and didn’t vote on the issue.

Community Energy Solar should begin construction of the approximately $100 million project next spring. The 81-megawatt solar farm will be the first utility solar project in Saunders County.

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