Where is the Transparency, Where is the Repsonsibility?
Kansas Needs Laws Requiring Transparency & Timely Information Disclosure
QUESTION: What do the People of Kansas know about the total existing number of Industrial Utility-Scale Solar and Wind Power Facility land lease agreements for potential projects, across the state of Kansas and Nationwide?
ANSWER: We know next to nothing with regards to the total acreage of potential projects, except for “hearsay” and the occasional scoop by the media. Land Lessors are required to agree to a non-disclosure when signing most Energy Company land lease agreements. This makes project transparency impossible. The general public, businesses, residential and commercial real estate professionals/developers, and non-participating landowner neighbors…are being blind sided.
JUST ONE example of this is NextEra Energy’s Boulevard Associates, LLC & West Gardner Solar, LLC aggressive agricultural land leasing that has been stealthly transpiring since 2014 in Douglas County, KS.
If you ask the majority of citizens in Douglas County, KS if they are aware of how many acres or square miles of their county’s agriculturally zoned land has been secured by NextEra Energy for future (if approved) Industrial Utility-Scale Solar and Wind Power Facilities, Battery Energy Storage Systems and Transmission Lines…the answer is most always “I have no idea!”
Citizens in Douglas County, KS got frustrated not knowing how much land, in total, of their county was being leased to NextEra Energy in particular. So they took it upon themselves to dig in and spend the hours and dollars necessary to find out.
Below are several Maps that have been compiled to finally shed light on how much land has been leased since 2014 by NextEra Energy for potential Industrial Utility-Scale Solar and Wind Power Facilities, Battery Energy Storage Systems and Transmission Lines.
NextEra continues to persue more land leasing, so these maps will most likely change but at least you get an idea of the alarming amount of land leasing they are persuing, in Douglas County, KS alone. This same agressive, stealth land leasing is happening in counties across our entire beautiful state of Kansas and the rest of rural america too. BE AWARE, SPEAK UP, GET INVOLVED in meetings with the Douglas County Commission, Planning Board and Zoning Board. Protect Dougals County’s rural landscapes, agriculture, agribusinesses, local food systems, wildlife, ecosystems, health, safety, property values and quality of life.
NextEra Energy’s Land Leases in Douglas County, KS
The maps below show the total number of parcels leased, as of 4/3/2023, for potential Industrial Utility-Scale Solar or Wind Power Facilities in Douglas County, KS. This information is the current information available through public records. The massive amount of land leasing appears to be happening along the entire South half of the county. Currently there are approximately 8,463 Acres or 13.22 Square Miles of land showing as leased by NextEra Energy’s subsidiaries Boulevard Associates, LLC and West Gardner Solar, LLC in Douglas County, KS alone.
CLICK HERE to view the full list of participating landowners/lessors and leased property locations with quick reference IDs. There are a total of 63 participating landowners/lessors and a total of 128 leased properties as of 4/3/2023.1
* NOTE: Several Douglas County Citizens having concerns about the accuracy of the existing NextEra Energy land leases as they are recorded in the county’s Register of Deeds. Due to this we have respectfully removed this list of property owners until accuracy can be confirmed with regards to earlier dated leases (from 2014 and 2015) possibly having expired or having been terminated. From what we can decern at this point notifications of lease “releases” would have to be submitted either by NextEra Energy or the participating landowners would need to file notarized affidavits to the Douglas County, KS Register of Deeds for lease information to be updated.
Map One Shows: Parcels, Quick Reference IDs for Property Details, Proximity of Leased Land to Historical Santa Fe Trail, Other Historical Sites and Flood Plains.
CLICK HERE to download the large PDF version of Map One.
Map Two Shows: Soil Types, Parcels, and Quick Reference IDs for Property Details.
CLICK HERE to download the large PDF version of Map Two.
Map Three Shows: 10 Foot Contours/Elevation/Slope, Parcels, and Quick Reference IDs for Property Details.
CLICK HERE to download the large PDF version of Map 3.
Map Four Shows: NextEra Energy’s South Douglas County, KS 8,463 Acre/13.22 Square Mile Industrial Utility-Scale Solar and Wind Power Facilty Land Leasing AND the Shell/Savion 1,103 Acre North of Lawrence proposed Industrial Utility-Scale Solar Power Facility. Combined NextEra Energy’s Land Leases and Shell/Savion’s Project take up 9,566 Acres or 14.95 Square Miles.
CLICK HERE to download the large PDF version of Map Four.
Map Five Shows: If you were to place the total acreage over the City of Lawrence how much of the city would be taken up by NextEra Energy’s Land Leases and Shell/Savion’s Project. It ends up being about HALF of the City of Lawrence’s size which is 22,380 Acres/14.95 Square Miles.
CLICK HERE to download the large PDF version of Map Five.
QUESTION: Whose responsibility is it to make a developers massive land leasing for potential Industrial Utility-Scale Solar and Wind Power Facility projects immediately transparent to the public so that citizens have this critical information? How are citizens able to make wise investment and planning decisions and to mitigate financial risk when there is zero visiblity to the total, growing number of acres in their county being secured for industrial development?
It seems County and City Long-term Comprehensive Plans aren’t worth the tax payer dollars used to create them, they aren’t even worth the paper they are printed on because unbeknownst to citizens 1,000s, upon 1,000s, upon 1,000s of acres of land designated as rural/agricultural have been leased by developers, like NextEra Energy, for Industrial Utility-Scale Solar and Wind Power Facility projects. These project developers will disregard Long-term Comprehensive Plans by requesting conditional use permits (CUPs) to convert rural character/agriculturally zoned land to industrial use.
ANSWER: It seems no responsibility is being taken for ensuring full transparency to the ever increasing amount of Kansas land that is being secured by developers for these projects. This needs immediate attention!
If regulations are going to allow Energy Companies to request and potentially be granted CUPs, that modify land use; and that use deviates from a County or City’s Long-term Comprehensive Plan then the public needs to be made aware of the large land leasing activites that are taking place in their communities. Transparency should be required immediatley upon the signing of an Energy Company’s first land lease agreement in a County/City and for every lease thereafter.
SOLUTION: A new Kansas State Law that requires, upon the signing of the first land lease agreement for any potential Industrial Utility-Scale Solar Power Facility project or any developer, for that matter, who is securing 300 acres or more for a project, with the intent of changing land use through CUPs:
1. Written notification of the land lease within 10 days to State, County and City Officials. The State of Kansas to document online, and make available to the public, a database tool to lookup large land leasing activity by a single company and the subsidiaries they may be operating behind.
2. Published public notice/press releases to local media within 10 days
3. Mailed letters within 10 days to all landowners, homeowners and businesses within a 3-mile radius of every land lease intended for a total project area of 300+ acres that has the intent of changing land use through CUPs.
This provides critical transparency. Transparency in turn gives individuals who are looking to invest more in their communities, their businesses and/or to further improve thier properties, a chance to take pause.
Citizens have rights and deserve timely information about land leasing for potential large scale industrial development, it should be law. Especially when projects desire to change land use that is contrary to an existing Long-term Comprehensive Plan.
Not providing timely transparency to large amounts of land leasing by a company in one area is detrimental to the citizens of that area. No transparency negatively impacts the financial security and well being of citizens.
QUESTION: How can the public easily determine what Energy Company is behind the LLCs they use to conduct business? LLCs protect Energy Companies from Liability. Multiple LLCs limit potential liability risk between each of the limited liability companies. It makes it easier to attract investors for one particular business (LLC) and even sell a business to someone else. Delaware LLCs, Cayman Island offshore accounts…these signal “lack of transparency” making it difficult for the public, state, county and city officials to investigate and fully understand who the Energy Companies are behind many projects, due to the multitude of LLCs they are operating through.
For example, NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, who has numerous Industrial Utility-Scale Solar and Wind Projects in operation and/or development in Kansas, has 864 subsidiaries in the United States and 187 that operate in foreign countries. Most of heir LLCs are organized out of Delaware, not their home state of Florida. Additionally, their Palms Insurance Company, Limited (a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Capital Holdings, Inc.) is organized offshore in the Cayman Islands (this is reported by the U.S. Securities and Exchange.2
SOLUTION: A new Kansas State Law that requires, any developer, who is securing 300 acres or more for a project, with the intent of changing land use through CUPs, to provide written notification of the land lease within 10 days to State, County and City Administrators.
The State of Kansas to develop and make available to the public, an online database tool that can be used to search for large land leasing activity, by a single company and its subsidiaries. And to also reveal and display the list of all subsidiaries the company is using for their land leasing activity.
Did you know Non-US Foreign individuals, investors and LLCs are allowed to be “members” of US Limited Liability Corporations?3 This means without the state creating new laws that require transparency for developers leasing massive amounts of land, these developers can hide behind a myriad of US owned LLCs and make Non-US Foreign entities “members” of their LLCs. There are additionally many strategic ways to hide LLCs and their members, making it next to impossible for the average citizen to gain visibility to anything a behemmoth developer is doing to hide their agressive land acquistion efforts.
One last note…did you know NextEra Energy Resources, LLC raised $10 million in Series B funding for a company called LandGate which is the United States’ leading marketplace and data provider for commercial land and its resources including solar, wind, minerals, water, and carbon offsets. NextEra’s funding enabled LandGate to expand its marketing and sales efforts to increase market penetration across the country.3
1 Source: Douglas County,KS Deed Search: https://landmark.douglascountyks.org/landmarkweb and Douglas County, KS Register of Deeds: https://www.douglascountyks.org/depts/register-of-deeds
2 Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/37634/000075330817000060/nee-12312016ex21.htm
3 Source: IncFile: https://www.incfile.com/blog/can-non-u.s.-residents-be-llc-members