Our local paper presents biased propaganda as a front-page news article.

The April 20 front-page story uses two photographs and serval untruths in an attempt to prevent Mason County from reaping the ecological and economic benefits solar can offer.

 One picture shows some of the supplies and equipment needed to install the 150-Mw large-scale solar array on 2,200 acres. The other picture shows equipment that will build the necessary access roads, etc. Significantly, the developers installed sediment control barriers around their equipment yard. Although the columnist did not mention this, it is indicative of the care solar developers show the environment.

The article next acknowledges that landowners can benefit, if JPC allows them to use their property to its best economic use. It fails to mention that during its expected 30-year life a solar project will also:

  1. support continuous sod that and thus
    1. reduce soil erosion
    2. improve stormwater control 
  2. Replace cash grain which 
    1. depletes soil nutrients
    2. requires chemicals that contaminate local watersheds
  3. Will have a higher payroll than the cash grain and cow-calf operations it replaces
  4. Does not require urban utilities
  5. Protect the land from creeping urbanization

Ms. Hopkins, in a typical Stop-Solar tactic, ignores the official record when she claims “But no concrete numbers have been provided to the JPC or Mason County officials to date.” At the March 2, 2022, JPC meeting Mr Craycraft, Mason County’s PVA, testified on this question. He based his calculations on land leased to a solar developer for $650/acre/year and current value used to tax ag land. He testified the same tax rate would be applied to an ag acre valued at $300 to solar leased acre valued $9286. He went on to say that the local tax district’s income from that acre’s real property tax would increase from the current $2.88 to $88.80, resulting in a net increase of $85.92/acre/year. Extending these numbers over 6,000 acres for 30 years means if we allow well-regulated solar into Mason County, it will increase revenue by $15,465,000 to our local tax districts. The bias demonstrated by the Stop-Solar sign posted in Ms. Hopkin’s driveway has apparently prevented her from performing accurate and honest journalism.

The article next mentions David Reed, the anti-solar advocate JPC Commissioner. On June 2, 2021, before hearing any public testimony, Reed stated he recommended 2,000-foot setbacks from houses. Reed has advocated many stop-solar regulations throughout the JPC process. He often ends his introduction of F(ear) U(ncertainty) and D(oubt) with, “but I do not know.” The article identifies several of these FUD topics. Toxic runoff, possible fires, enormous battery packs, more sinkholes, and other health hazards.

Since the stop-solar commissioners lob these out in JPC meetings, which allow no method to refute their claims, I welcome this opportunity to introduce peer-reviewed evidence for your consideration.

Toxic runoff  – This Stop-Solar claim ignores that solar panels contain no liquids and that research indicates they pose no ecological problem. In fact, replacing cash grain with sod, solar will stop the poisonous ag chemicals entering our water.

Possible fires – while anything is possible, solar operators are motivated to maintain their equipment, which reduces the risk of fire. Evidence shows that they work to prepare local fire departments in case a fire occurs.

Enormous battery packs  – Here, the stop-solar folks take some facts and then try to use them to increase FUD.

Facts:

  1. Safe and economically viable ways to store electric power will help the electric grid no matter the source of the electricity.  
  2. Batteries are only one of the many methods being investigated to store electric power.
  3. Batteries on the scale needed for the US Electrical grid will (with current technology) be enormous.
  4. Because it cost less to assemble batteries in a factory than “on site”, batteries may be assembled in 20 and 40 foot multi-modal containers. These containers hold the batteries, their control and fire suppression systems. These containers can be moved from the factory by rail and truck. Upon arrival, a crane can lift them from the truck body and place them. They arrive ready to be connected and put into service. 

So yes, the envisioned batteries are expected to be large, but current battery technology is not yet ready for prime time. Will it be within 30 years? Who knows. Significantly, NO local solar developer is currently planning to install batteries. Developers, as much as anyone, want their array to consistently produce electricity, for 30 years. They have no incentive to risk their investment by installing unproven technology.

More Sinkholes – This is stop-solar’s most creative FUD. They quote the number of posts needed to support a large-scale solar array and then claim that many posts will “fracture” our limestone. I guess Stop-Solar folks are hoping to imply a post hole less than 8 feet deep will have the effect claimed for fracking wells that are thousands of feet deep and have high-pressure fluid injected into them. Where posts must extend into rock, the rock is drilled before the post is inserted.

Because Solar developers do not want their investment lost in a sinkhole, they perform geological surveys on land to ensure their large-scale array will not be subject to subsidence.

Other health hazards – In typical Stop-Solar spin, this nebulous FUD claim is lobbed with no follow-up. It is significant that in many cases solar will replace no-till cash grain which uses many hazardous chemicals, several of which are defending lawsuits about their severe health risks.

The article then complains about a cloud of dust and long lines of parked equipment. Most construction sites are unsightly during construction. After a brief construction period, the solar array will support 30 years of sod, which will help reduce dust and protect the soil and water for that whole period. 

After 1,099 days on the JPC’s agenda, the current JPC solar document is full of stop solar poison pills designed by Citizens Voice of Mason County Incorporated and advocated by their Stop Solar Commissioner advocates such as Reed and Frame.

Our area must react to the loss of Tobacco and Dairy, as well as among others Jockey, TechnoTrim, Federal-Mogul, Browning/Emerson/Regal, Stuart & Killian Stations. These losses demonstrate why our area needs a new clean industry. However, the JPC continues discussing stop-solar poison pills. If adopted they will prevent well-regulated solar from contributing to our economic and ecological future.

Please reject the stop-solar propaganda. The best outcome is neither No Solar nor Anything goes solar. Mason County’s future will be best served if the Mason County Fiscal Court and Maysville City Commission use the expertise of the KY Public Service Commission’s State Siting Board and adopt an ordinance based on Kentucky Model Solar Ordinance.

The alternative is adopting Citizen’s Voice of Mason County’s recommendation and hoping for a different outcome while continuing to do what was appropriate in 1960.

Biased Propaganda presented as news on Front page

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Ledger-Independent editor admits article’s pro-solar bias

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