LETTER — We need to slow down on solar projects

Published 4:30 pm Friday, June 11, 2021

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To the Editor:

Yes, the editorial in last week’s Charlotte Gazette is correct that the new Southside Virginia Community College program to train local workers for solar panel installation sounds very promising. For many reasons, having solar panels installed by local employees with community roots is far better than relying on itinerant installers.

The same editorial recognizes some pitfalls of huge solar installations yet seems to accept converting farms and woods of our beautiful rural countryside into large solar facilities.

However, not all solar projects are beneficial, especially in the long term. Woods and untilled fields are natural carbon sponges, especially critical to mitigate the worst aspects of climate change.

Cutting large areas of woods and bulldozing to install industrial solar facilities are environmentally harmful practices, destroying a means of absorbing carbon, as well as habitat.

Bulldozed hills will never be restored, and trees do not grow overnight. Also, questions about recycling and disposal of used solar panels have not been satisfactorily resolved. Rapidly developing technology indicates future solar installations may not require nearly as much space. Decisions at all steps of proposed solar projects should only be made cautiously, with full information and understanding of all consequences. Why rush?

Small solar installations on roofs of homes and businesses, in already degraded sites, and in small areas that do not impact one’s neighbors seem the most beneficial. Unfortunately, many people are blinded by money promised by industrial solar projects, not considering the impact on nature and neighbors. Who doesn’t love to hear quail and whippoorwills? Prime white-tail deer hunting and family traditions are jeopardized. And there are many other animals, as well as plants, with presence far less obvious, but which will be harmed by large solar installations.

Again, untilled fields and wooded areas help the environment by storing great quantities of carbon, and they should not be destroyed to erect solar panels. Various companies are paying owners of woodlands to preserve trees through carbon offset projects. More thought should be given locally to preserving trees (with or without monetary incentives), to help the environment and maintain the scenic views.

Our actions affect our neighbors, and we are all neighbors. Everyone all over the world is affected by loss of animals and plants, pollution of watersheds, and loss of beautiful scenery. Ugly land psychologically depresses people and can destroy a whole region’s property values, driving people away.

Common sense recognizes that residents adjacent to industrial solar projects are harmed directly by the many environmental degradation concerns and an immediate loss in property values. Buffers at edges of large solar projects do little to mitigate damages to immediate neighbors. Most Charlotte County citizens who will benefit directly from the planned large solar installations own large acreages, although many landowners most immediately adjacent own much smaller plots of land. Decreased property values impact their descendants, an additional direct injury caused by the industrial-sized solar installations.

Even while the solar training is beginning, people can make plans for their own residential rooftop or small installations, and try not to harm others, but can’t we also have a real discussion of what is important to our county? We need more information about payments for carbon credits and how we can preserve the woods and forests we have now, with all their beauty and habitat, at least to the point of not sacrificing them to industrial solar installations. Trees and untilled fields are great carbon sinks and help the environment and should not be wasted for huge solar installations. Can’t we pause for some long-term planning and consideration of what is ultimately important to all Charlotte County citizens? Solar projects still have many unanswered questions. Decisions made now affect future generations and cause irrevocable harm.

Janet F. Early

Charlotte Court House