LETTER — What’s the rush on solar farms?

Published 3:21 pm Friday, October 30, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

To the Editor:

Locations for industrial solar projects should be meticulously planned. Most Charlotte County citizens appreciate nature and the rural lifestyle, and their opinions should not be ignored. An essential question is how best to protect the County’s beautiful scenery, valuable watersheds, native plants and animals, and local food production, as well as all untapped potential for historical, recreational, and other tourism activities.

About 12 years ago in South Boston, Gov. Tim Kaine and Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources, Preston Bryant, spoke about the serious importance of preserving Southside Virginia’s unspoiled land, because so much of Virginia elsewhere had already been developed. Today, because land in Southside Virginia is less expensive than in more developed areas of Virginia, many industrial solar projects are proposed — some having questionable merit.

The Southern Environmental Law Center’s March 2017 policy brief, “The Environmental Review of Solar Farms in the Southeast U.S.,” expresses the view that large solar projects (apart from residential or community solar installations) should be located whenever possible upon land that is already disturbed, including rooftops of existing buildings, closed landfills, and other places where wildlife habitat and watersheds will be the least disrupted.

Prior to further solar development within Charlotte County many questions should be answered. Has there been detailed long-term planning to identify where solar facilities can be situated to do the least harm to the unspoiled areas of Charlotte County? Are there county sites such as parking lots and roofs that could be utilized for solar energy, all without fragmenting valuable habitat, threatening an important watershed, and impacting nearby historical and scenic areas? Are solar industrial-sized facilities being proposed simply because a few people believe that route will quickly generate revenue for the county? Are solar companies interested mainly because land is less expensive here? Do these non-local solar companies really have Charlotte County’s best interests at heart? How can we possibly know there will be no harm or unforeseen problems in the next 25 to 35 years? Will the long-term costs outweigh the short-term benefits? Will most construction workers be local citizens or transients? If these workers are non-local, would drug and crime problems increase? What about traffic problems during construction?

Consider future generations. Once an undeveloped area is transformed into a large industrial solar project, the area is greatly degraded, if not ruined — despite promises of restoration at the decommissioning.

What is the rush? With the pandemic, everyone is overwhelmed with many personal, national and global problems. Major decisions about Charlotte County’s future require time for proper evaluation with citizen input, and should not be made just by a few people. Approval of any additional Charlotte County solar projects should be postponed until genuinely thoughtful, careful, open and transparent study and proper long-term planning can determine the best numbers and locations for them, as well as alternate ways to increase County revenue, capitalizing on Charlotte’s natural beauty and history. Short-sighted decisions can do great harm.

Edward W. Early

and Janet F. Early

Charlotte Court House