Solar protects our ability to grow food in the future
- Will agriculture be able to feed future population growth.
- Thomas Robert Malthus first raised this concern in 1798. Since then, agriculture has become more specialized, mechanized, scientific and larger scale, all of which have dramatically increased production. These changes have also altered the very nature of production agriculture. In the 1930s one American farmer produced enough agricultural product to feed a total of four people; a family farm was literally meant to feed a family [source: Kirschenmann]. Fast forward 40 years, and that number rises from four people to 73. Fast forward through 80 years of agricultural and bioscience innovation, and in the 2010s, one farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people.
- With the loss of Tobacco and Dairy income, the economics of the remaining rural enterprises are forcing more and more landowners to sell house lots either along road frontage or by subdividing their land. This shows current rural land uses do not protect farmland but deliver the exact opposite of “minimize urban-type development into rural areas”.
- Taking farmland out of production
- Utility-Scale Solar provides an economic basis to stop this urban-type development into rural areas.
- Our rolling ground, thinner layer of topsoil, and steeper side slopes break up our field sizes. These smaller fields prevents Mason County from achieving the economies of scale typical in the “corn belt.”
- Because solar will help reduce corn and soybean production acres, solar protects top soil and reduces watershed polution.
- If after a 30 year lease the land is again needed for food production, the land can be reclaimed.
- Well regulated solar will require posting bonds to cover the cost of reclamation before constructions starts on the solar installation.
- Installing solar stops tillage. Little to no soil needs to be moved to prepare for solar panels.
- The process is to drive posts into the ground (much like a large metal fence post).
- Then racking is bolted onto those posts and the panels are attached to that racking.
- Conductors lead from each panel to the end of that string of panels, at which point they enter underground conduits that lead to an inverter.
- These inverters convert the DC power from several strings of panels to higher voltage AC electricity.
- From there, conductors connect the high voltage side of each inverter to the central substation that again increases the voltage so it is suitable for a long distance transmission line.
- .The point is little no topsoil is moved. Trenching for the conduits is much like trenching to install a water line to supply livestock waters.
- The Stop-Solar folks suggest it is like the strip mines around Paradise KY. In fact, moving soil costs money, but brings no benefit to the solar developer. Stop-solar repeated comparison to strip mining is simply fear-mongering and has no basis in reality.
- It’s important to understand that solar is not a threat to agricultural activity, but rather a harmonious development that can assist the farming community.
Solar can help preserve top-soil and improve our whole county’s financial future.
- Some ask why not just use existing roof tops to capture solar power
- While nothing stops small scale solar installations 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
- Citizens Voice of Mason County has repeatedly said solar panels are safe enough to place on local roofs. This demonstrates they feel that little to no setback is justified by solar panel toxicity concerns.
- Some ask why not limit power to strip mines and other brownfields
- Capturing solar power in Mason County does not reduce the ability to also capture it on a strip mine elsewhere.
- The primary constraint to a solar farm is capacity availability in nearby electric transmission lines.
- As the least-cost source of electricity, the demand for solar power is almost limitless.
- Another claim is: Solar acres removed from production agriculture will cripple the local economy and population.
- Reality as shown above is that solar has many benefits for local economy and ecology.
- When I was a child in the 1950s,
- Washington KY had three “general” stores,
- Mason County had
- several dealerships where one could purchase new farm equipment and their repair parts
- several feed mills
- three tobacco redryers, multiple green prizes and at least 18 tobacco warehouses
- Maysville had two companies that purchased milk
- Now, of all of those, there is one feed mill still operating. That feed mill survived and prospered by adapting to fulfill ever changing market needs, not by trying to do things the way they did the year before.
- Our current trends are NOT supporting local ag supply businesses. Solar can replace lost tobacco and dairy cash flows into our community.
- Allowing some to adopt solar in no way prevent others from continuing in their current land uses.
Yes, solar is a new enterprise, but close examination shows it will help Mason County have a better ecological and financial future. That, not the number of generations anyone has been on their land, must govern our decisions about solar’s future in Mason County.
For all these reasons solar is an excellent land use of A1 and A2 zones, if you want to preserve our priceless topsoil and environment.