A more complete context will help us evaluate each issue raised in Mr. Le Gris Letter to the Editor.

Oct 1, 2021

  • Water runoff
  • Soil manipulation
  • Decommissioning and preparing land for next use.
    • Continous sod under the panels for the solar farm’s life will enhance organic matter and build topsoil compared to the erosive soil loss of corn and soybeans cash grain rotations for the same period. Thus solar helps protect our land so it will not be washed away by soil erosion.
    • Appropriate solar regulations require developers post a cash bond equal to the solar farm’s net decommissioning cost. Typically the cost to decommissioning the site is reevaluated by a thrid party licensed engineer every five years to assure the bond is appropriate for current market conditions. See page 7 – Decommissioning in the Kentucky Model Solar Zoning Ordinance for a sample of such requirments.
  • Pastorial Vistas
    • Yes, much of the potential solar land has been families for generations. This was possible becuase some of each generation identified enterprises that allowed them to use the land to support their cost of land ownership with enough leftover to support that generation’s personal needs.
    • There have been many changes in local land use. Grazing livestock in the native forests was an early use. Many activities on the land have come and gone since. Until recently, tobacco and dairy formed the foundation of Mason County’s agriculture. The numerious house lots sold off of farm’s frontage along county roads, like Cliff Pike, show that many landowners can no longer support land’s capital requirements by farming it. Instead, they use house lots sales to reduce their invested capital.
    • Solar lease income will stop this loss of prime farmland. The sod under solar builds the soil’s quality. After Solar land is decommissioned, it is can return to agriculture. Neither housing or commercial uses can make either statement.
  • Property values degraded unless you are part of the project
    • Comparative analysis shows solar facilities have no discernable impact on the property values of abutting or adjacent residential or agricultural properties. Read more
    • Read how everyone in Mason County benefits from solar energy
    • Solar’s addicnal flood control structure, reduction in ag chemical polution and added jobs helps everyone in our area.
  • Why solar farms not just use existing roof tops
    • While nothing stops small scale solar intallations on rooftops, each solar Mw requires 5 to 10 acres of panels.
    • The logistics and economics of connecting hundreds of acres of roof tops are not viable.
  • Why not put all solar in West?
    • The energy losses incurred by tranmaissed electricity over thousands of miles make the effort uneconomical .
    • Yhe USA is divided into regional electric grids. Mason County is multiple regions from the West.
    • Mason Conty needs a product we can sell outside our county so we can pay for all the things we want to purchase that are not produced inside our county.

I hope by answering the questions raised by Mr. Le Gris you can better understand why I believe well-regulated solar is one alternative Mason County should use to replace tobacco and dairy income.

If instead, you favor regulations that reject solar, then how do you suggest we deviate from our current trends of excessive erosion, falling population, and both our economic activity and tax base dwindling in each 10 year period? Denial and delay got us here, regulations drawn in bad faith may protect a few people’s current views but will not position our county for a bright economic and ecological future.

Below is Joel Le Gris’ Oct. 1 2021 Letter the editor

Looking at the pros and cons of solar

Dear editor,
I am writing this letter to express my concerns for the solar farm proposal scheduled for development in Mason and Fleming counties.

As a land and water conservationist plus an environmental and climate change concerned individual, I see both the problems and the benefits of this project.

The benefits being the reduction of fossil fuel carbon released by conventionally- ally generated electricity, the general public health, and the economic benefits locally and for the corporations involved. However, there are a number of problems that may be associated with the enormous swaths of land being converted to hard surfaces in a concentrated area. The number one concern is water runoff. When you take land which is basically one big sponge and replace it with hard surface almost the size of Manhattan Island, the water runoff is tremendous. The frightening aspect of what could happen was just demonstrated in a small watershed in Carlisle, with a freak storm event. If more of that watershed happened to be hard surface with 100 percent runoff, the consequences would have been much worse.
I am not sure what these companies are taking into consideration when placing these panels, but if they are not addressing the changes in water runoff then it is a big mistake. I believe part of the solution could be addressed with properly engineered retention and detention water basins for each tract of land or in strategic locations to control the runoff downstream which will help save soil, roads, culverts, houses, and perhaps even people’s lives.

Another problem that I see is soil manipulation when placing the panel arrays on the ground. What will be disturbed? What will be mitigated during and after the leases are over? Who will be responsible for any toxicity given off by the panels or the bases of the panels?

A large part of the areas under consideration are the more agriculturally productive prime and semi-prime soils in these counties. Many of the farms have been in families for decades and even centuries. The pastoral vistas are pretty spectacular in a lot of the area, also.

The NIMBY (not in my backyard) is alive and splitting folks apart again. Property rights upheld and others violated. Property values degraded unless you are part of the project I suppose. People cashing in but at what cost?

This is a difficult situation because there are certainly long-term benefits of the project, but why are we choosing this area rather than the urban areas first with already established structures in place? Why put more and more structure out there, which in itself, changes the albedo of solar reflection and can have an effect on climate too. There are warehouses and industrial park roofs and spoiled land surround- ing these industrial parks. Why not start in the urban corridors and move out from there? In fact, there are plenty of farmsteads that have lots of outbuildings with empty roof space. I have a house and two large barns that I would gladly let the companies have for free if they put solar panels on them and gave me a certain number of kilowatt hours each year and maintained my roofs. They could have the excess energy pumped back into their lines or substations. Many states already have these types of alternatives in place, especially in states that take pride in their environment and agricultural heritage and tourism.
Kentucky is much different than many states in the West where many of these large solar arrays are prevalent. Those locations have soil substrates almost the same as the silica in the panels themselves and are in valleys almost as flat. Kentucky can have explosive rainfall and flooding which is one reason why solar is an important aspect in combating climate change. However, water runoff is a challenge on an already rolling terrain. Tough call, but it can also be done in an intelligent manner.

Joel LeGris Taylorsville