LETTER — Solar farm will provide many benefits

Published 7:42 pm Friday, September 25, 2020

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To The Editor:

My name is Jay Newcomb. I own over 100 acres of land that will be used to create Randolph Solar, a utility-scale solar farm that will generate enough clean electricity to power over 80,000 homes. Recently, some voices opposed to the Randolph Solar project have been spreading false claims about solar panel safety, among other things.

As a landowner, resident, and community member, I want my land to be part of this solar project for several reasons. The acres I will be leasing for the project are timber farms, which cost thousands in upfront investments, plus just as many man hours to clear land, burn piles, and plant trees. After that, it’s 15-20 years before any financial yield. Meanwhile, there’s spraying for competing species by hand or helicopter. A neighboring landowner estimates his farms earn pennies on the dollar compared to the pricing offered by solar farms. The solar lease terms accounts for yearly inflation, and at the end of the project’s life, the land will still be mine. My neighbors also farm timber, soybeans, tobacco, and corn. We all know the kind of labor farming requires and how quickly market prices can shrink your income. Leasing my land means financial security in these uncertain times and eliminating my labor so I can focus on family and my primary job. And Randolph Solar will provide economic benefits to our entire county with new jobs and tax money for schools.

I had the opportunity to visit an active solar farm in Powhatan County. No panels were visible from the main road. From a building in the middle of farm, all I could see were acres of buffer land. On that visit, I learned about the strict environmental regulations solar projects must meet and heard for myself how quiet a solar farm is. It made me confident that the three acres of buffer planned around my home would be more than enough for our privacy and views. My wife and baby daughter will be home throughout the construction and operation of Randolph Solar. We’re not worried about being disturbed.

My grandfather and aunt are leasing 450 combined acres of their land too. Randolph Solar won’t use all of it. Some will be left for buffers or wetland and wildlife protection, and we’ll still get paid for leasing it. I’m an avid deer hunter, deeply committed to land stewardship. I am confident that enough land will remain untouched so as not to harm wildlife populations.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of keeping some from spreading misinformation about solar. As a father, I would never agree to surround my home with anything I thought would harm my family. I’m a part of this solar project to benefit my family. I hope people stick to looking at facts and science and listening to the voices of us who are directly involved when they form their opinions.

Jay Newcomb