This was found on Facebook. Gives you a lot to think about and how the solar company doesn't present the whole truth.
First, I hear the argument repeatedly that putting the land into solar will give it a chance to rest and that this is comparable to enrolling it into the USDA`s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). However, this is not the same because under the CRP program, no land is graded, no topsoil is removed and then replaced on the soil surface, farm or other equipment is not being driven on the land regularly, nothing is installed into or onto the land (such as cable, cement, gravel, steel posts, and other materials), no impervious surfaces are added above the soil surface such as would be the case with solar panels, and no trenches are dug into the ground followed by placement of underground cables only for those cables to remain in the ground for a lifetime with unknown consequences of what may be leached into the soil and groundwater.
Another argument that is untrue is that once the lease contracts are up, everything can simply be removed, the land can be reconditioned or de-compacted, and it will return to its previous productivity. While this MAY be mostly possible on some of the land that has the least amount of disturbance, this is patently false when it comes to the land where gravel roads or cement pads are installed at the beginning of the project. That land will never return to a highly productive state because it will be extremely compacted. Additionally, it will be impossible to remove all of the gravel which means that it will be incorporated into the fields, reducing the overall soil quality (and productivity), or some of the topsoil would have to be removed in order to ensure ALL gravel was removed. Any farmer knows that losing topsoil is not a good thing for soil quality.
I have a strong concern about wildlife also. Once animals are fenced out of thousands of acres of land, that will force their migration patterns to change and will also cause more concentrated populations on the remaining acres available to them. While some might be thrilled with fewer deer, they likely won`t be thrilled with the avenue that gets us to fewer deer, which will probably be through an increase in car/deer crashes as deer run on and alongside roads looking for an exit rather than simply running across roads. Land animals aren`t the only ones that will be impacted though. Residents within the project area have shared with me that they regularly see bald eagles in their back yards, and there is at least one nest located within the project area.
The environment is another concern of mine. The Engineering Plan for this project states that, ideally, they will establish groundcover prior to construction; however, this may not be possible given the timeline. I have grave concerns about runoff. I am also concerned about fugitive dust that may be generated both during the construction phase as well as throughout the lifetime of the project as this is known to be a health hazard. Residents who grow their own gardens or raise crops to be fed to animals both within and beyond the project area are at risk of illness. Additionally, there are at least two agritourism businesses within the project area that sell their fruit and vegetables direct to consumers. Thus, thousands of people are at risk of contracting an illness such as salmonella, which could be a public health nightmare and ultimately could be catastrophic.
Speaking of animals and health, I am concerned that should a weather event cause the panels to become airborne or a battery fire break out and cause material to land in neighboring fields, animals would be at risk of injury or death by consuming pasture or hay grown on those properties. It has been stated that farmers could simply put their animals in barns if this were to happen. However, this is impossible for a grazing operation where animals are primarily or fully raised outside on pasture. Additionally, shards of glass from panels or toxic chemicals from a battery fire could remain in the soil for decades to come. There doesn't seem to be a clear plan in place as to how cleanup would happen and how farmers would be reimbursed. I suspect extreme economic hardship would ensue for the farmers. I realize that this is a hypothetical, but it is critical that the hypothetical scenarios be planned for ahead of time in order to prevent panic and disaster if and when scenarios like this become a reality.
Lastly, I grew up on my family`s dairy farm and understand deeply that for most farmers, farming isn`t what they do. It`s who they are. While a few may be choosing to try to earn top dollar to keep their farm a "farm" in name only, the vast majority really do want to keep farming in every sense of the word. This will be made more difficult as thousands upon thousands of acres of land are signed into solar or wind leases. We can say goodbye to the small and medium-sized farmers. There won`t be land left for them to rent at a price they can afford, and certainly not land that they can afford to purchase. And what will be left in 30 years for the land coming out of solar panels? A generation of kids who didn`t actually grow up farming who have no interest in farming and who don`t even know how to farm. I`m sure the corporations will be there to swoop it up. And our rural way of life will be gone forever.
While this project may be "less than 1% of the farmland in the county," it isn`t the only project currently before the Commission, and it won`t be the last. According to the MISO website, there are currently 1220 MW of solar and 1000 MW of battery storage projects in the MISO Queue with the potential for more to be submitted at any time. The land grab isn`t limited to a desire to place solar panels on it either. There is an anticipated 12,000 acres of land that is rumored to be going into wind energy contracts. All combined, that is far more than 1% of our land.