KY statue 278.704 and setbacks

KY statue 278.704 that deals with Merchant electric generating facilities, as written, is short-sighted. If followed, it will doom more Kentuckians to live in communities with little to no solar farm tax base.

Section two states, “... facility to be actually used for solar or wind generation shall be required to be at least one thousand (1,000) feet from the property boundary of any adjoining property owner and two thousand (2,000) feet from any residential neighborhood, school, hospital, or nursing home facility.

Although no circular Solar Farms are found in nature, a circle would minimize the impact of any setback rule. Since the math of a circle is the easiest, let’s consider this statute’s impact on an approximately 100 Mwutility-scale solar farm with 750 acres of ground in its solar collector array and electrical substation.

A 750-acre circle has a 3,224.8-foot radius. When 1,000 feet is added to its productive radius, 1,287.3-acres is consumed. Said another way, only 58% of the site can generate electricity (revenue). If instead a 2000 foot setback is added to the productive radius, the complete site would consume 1,968.8 acres. With a 2,000-foot setback, the best case allows only 38.1% of consumed land can generate electricity (revenue).

Since it is common for a Solar Farm to generate $24,000 per 100 acres annually, the 537 acres nonproductive acres required by 1,000-foot setbacks, will reduce potential local tax revenue by over $100,000 each year. (Unless the entire plan for a Solar Farm is abandoned, in which case the community will not receive the $5,400,000 a typical 750 acre Solar Farm contributes to local taxing authorities over its 30-year expected life.

The lost space math of a square is even worse. With a 1,000-foot setback, a square needs 1,366.7-acres for 750 acres of generation, while a 750 acre square with a 2,000-foot setback consumes 2,167.0-acres for 750 acres of electrical generation. (See calculations)

Kentucky’s agricultural community is attempting to recover financially after losing both the dairy and tobacco enterprises’ revenue. These traditional Kentucky enterprises provided bucolic vistas that enticed folks to move into rural areas. Most of these lifestyle residents do not depend on an agricultural income and may not appreciate farming’s financial demands.

No one should expect the past bucolic views or lifestyle without establishing a way to replace the revenue our rural communities have lost.

Of the two major alternatives, neither grade cow-calf beef nor corn/soybean cash grain can support our rural communities over the long term.

Thirty more years of continuous no-till cash grain will leave us with little topsoil all while row-crop chemicsls generating substantial watershed pollution. Topsoil loss is permanent and will make it hard to grow forage to feed any livestock. Property tax revenue must drop as cash grain revenue stops. 

These facts demand that Kentucky find new uses for our land resources. Otherwise, future generations are doomed to live in an area with no topsoil and small property tax revenue streams.

A drive through rural Kentucky demonstrates the rural economic stress since the loss of dairy and tobacco. Reduced cash flows lead many landowners to sell house lots along their road frontage. Also, notice the amount of topsoil filling up road ditches and streams. 

Solar farms provide a better option for Kentucky. 

  • Solar farms improve our quality of life by reducing soil erosion and water pollution from animal waste and crop chemicals. 
  • The maintenance of an established solar farm will provide more local work opportunities than beef or cash grain.
  • Solar farms can provide a substantial revenue stream to support land ownership and help support community services. It is fairly normal for 100 acres in a solar farm to contribute $24,000 yearly to community taxing authorities. 
  • It is important to remember that solar farms do not require natural gas, city water, landfill capacity, rail, river or extensive roads.

Let’s compare a solar farm to a single-family household found along rural road frontage. The household, compared to the same sized portion of a solar farm, will:

  1. generate more:
    1. sewage
    2. trash
    3. noise
    4. light pollution
    5. traffic
    6. chemical pollution
  2. disrupt the topsoil more
  3. be taller
  4. require more community services while most likely paying less property tax 

Even though some neighbors may object to a house built in their viewscape, Kentucky statute 278.704’s 1.000-foot setback would require a minimum lot of 91.8 acres and is just as wrongheaded, as requiring 1287-acres for a 750-acre Solar Farm.

Ignoring solar’s position as the least-cost source of electrical power while sticking with our current land uses is adopting denial, as our strategy. This position will not serve the entire community, nor potential solar landowners, and their immediate neighbors. Rejecting solar hurts our environment, our community’s ability to support local services and will reduce everyone’s property values over time.

If we want modern community services in the future, we have two choices, either every climbing property taxes or allowing new land uses to contribute to our community. Please help build a bright future for those who will live in Kentucky 30 years or even 100 years from now. Together we must face reality, reject 1,000 and 2000 foot setbacks and ensure solar setbacks match those of other land uses while allowing solar to help our community move to a better future.