Zoning and land use planning must take a long-term view and judge likely our community’s results over decades. We certainly must not make short-sighted decisions that benefit only a few property owners. With that in mind, let’s consider the expected outcomes if our community does or does not have utility-scale solar farms for the next 30 years.
Our agricultural community still struggles to recover financially after losing the revenue from both dairy and tobacco enterprises. Cash grain is currently the only large-scale alternative with a chance to replace the net profit from either tobacco or dairy. Thirty more years of continuous no-till corn and soybeans will leave us with little topsoil plus ensure row-crop chemicals pollute our watersheds. Topsoil loss is permanent and removes the land’s ability to support any agricultural enterprise. Property tax revenue must drop as agricultural revenue drops. As agriculture losses its ability to pay property taxes, local tax districts must reduce services or raise tax rates for the other residents.
Either outcome, reduced services, or ever-increasing tax rates will hurt the entire community’s desirability, resulting in a drop in resale value of the whole community’s real estate.
Now let’s consider the probable outcome if, instead, our community does have utility-scale solar. It is fairly typical for every 100 acres in a solar farm to contribute $24,000 annually to community taxing authorities. The 6,000 acres of utility-scale solar that some have mentioned would annually contribute $1,440,000 to Fleming and Mason taxing districts. Over 30 years, that results in $43,200,000 of contributions made directly to local tax districts. In addition:
- Sod under the solar collectors will retain topsoil and help restore its organic matter.
- Maintaining an established solar farm will provide more local work opportunities than either beef or cash grain enterprises on the same acreage.
- Solar farms will provide a substantial revenue stream to landowners, much of which will be spent in our local community
- It is important to remember that solar farms do not require natural gas, city water, landfill capacity, rail, river, or extensive road networks.
Of these two alternatives, I expect almost everyone will favor allowing utility-scale solar farms to help support our community’s future.