Letter to the Editor

LETTER: Why take productive ground for solar farm?

Thursday, December 29, 2022

To the Editor:

I am disappointed with the recent 5-2 vote by the Putnam County Council approving the tax abatement for the Cold Spring solar farm.

This is a major step for the proposed solar panels to be placed on farmland in Russell Township in Putnam County. Despite several landowners and residents from Russell Township being against this movement, the Council approved the tax abatement.

It is recognized that not all landowners and residents are against the solar panels. In fact, at the meeting, it was stated that seven or eight different landowners amounting to approximately 1,800 acres had already agreed to the solar panels.

I respect the decisions made by those landowners, however it should be noted that most of those landowners do not reside in this immediate area in Russell Township. There are also a few landowners in Montgomery County who have agreed to the solar panels, but the Montgomery County Council did not approve the tax abatement.

I am aware that there is a need in our country to generate additional energy sources, and wind and sun are two viable options. Also, I am not personally against solar panels in general. Some individual landowners may have some solar panels to help relieve energy costs for their home or business. North Putnam Schools has a few acres of solar panels next to the high school and middle school. From my understanding, the solar panels maybe haven’t been as cost-effective as expected, but still have been worthwhile. Also, the town of Bainbridge has solar panels to help generate energy for the town. In these examples, we’re talking about small acreage, and not highly productive land.

The land in Russell Township that is proposed for the solar panels is highly productive farmland that will be taken out of production for many years.

I understand there is a significant economic advantage for the county to have this proposed solar farm. I do not understand all the economics, but I personally know four of the individuals on the County Council, and have the utmost respect for each of them. They seem to see and understand those economic advantages.

However, as Councilman Jay Alcorn stated, “Some things are more important than dollars and cents.” He also added to not take good farmland from farmers, perhaps find rough land or warehouse flat roofs. He stated, “I just don’t think it’s the right use for our land.”

Councilman Larry Parker concurred on the land use, and stated he wouldn’t want to live in an area where there were solar panels.

There seems to be a lot of uncertainty with having solar farms in our county. Those that have been discussed include the long-term viability of the land owners receiving their lease payments, maintenance on the solar panels, repair needs, fencing around the solar fields, pasturing, maintenance of weeds within the solar fields and around the fencing, fire risks, managing fire control, effect on adjoining or area property values (specifically residential properties) and more. I do not have specific information on these uncertainties, only that there are a lot of questions.

It is recognized that farming also has uncertainties, but each farmer can control some of that risk with crop insurance and other management tools.

Admittedly, there are not very many residential properties in the area of Russell Township where the solar panels will be located. But how many residences would make a difference? Perhaps only one, if that residence was yours.

Finally, I would like to ask a couple questions to each person reading this letter. First of all, if you do not live in a rural area, imagine that you do. Would you like to live next to a solar farm, where you can look out your window and see solar panels 365 days a year? Or would you rather look out your window and see the changes of the seasons in Putnam County, watching the progress of planting the seeds in the spring, the green beauty of growing crops in the summer, the reward of a bountiful harvest in the fall and the quiet stillness of the cold in the winter?

Most of us have chosen where we live based on our job, our family, where we grew up, availability or whatever the reason. I grew up on a farm in Russell Township. I do not live there now, but still have family and friends who do. I currently live in a rural area nearby, and personally would much rather look out my window and see the changes of the seasons.

Ken Carrington