Letter to the editor: Questions about local solar farm – The Era-Leader

Editor, The Era-Leader:

After attending the recent meeting of the parish planning commission, the comments made about the “Iris” project (the solar farm on Hwy 16 on the site of the Southeastern experimental station) has me wondering…… How and Why?

The land being used is state land and we are told that the parish has no authority over it whatsoever as the state is sovereign. While this is true, the state of Louisiana is not just an area of designated land, but of its people. We were given no notice, no warning, no opportunity to have any say to our elected representatives whether we, as residents, wanted such a project plunked down on us.  How did it come to be?  Who made this decision?

Parish residents with land adjoining this solar farm have experienced changes on their private land such as drainage with erosion leading to parts of Kat Kaw Road being made unusable.

I have seen the loss of many of the old established oak trees that used to beautify the land and contribute to the environment in a positive way. Solar farms change the not only the landscape, but the runoff from rain and the drainage. They take up a lot of space and all the vegetation that previously provide control over erosion and water runoff is now gone. That vegetation has to be killed initially and over the lifespan of the operation which involves the massive use of herbicides.

Most people, when they think about solar energy, think that it is clean and non-polluting. While the energy itself is, the production of it is not. There are toxic metals used in the production of these solar panels. These metals are difficult and costly to recycle and in many instances, when the panels wear out or become damaged, there is no recycling effort. In the 2020 year, the United States produced 13,000 tons of solar panel waste. This amount is expected to hit 170,000 tons by 2030. If this waste is not recycled, where does it go? It won’t degrade so wherever it is placed, it’s going to be there for a long, long time. 

Our area experiences hurricanes and high wind speeds during some thunderstorms. How much wind can these panels sustain without breaking loose.  Who wants to wake up or come home to a solar panel in their yard or through their roof?

Property values have been shown to decline with the creation of solar farms. In Providence Rhode Island, after analyzing thousands of property sales in Rhode Island and Massachusetts over a decade and a half, economists at the University of Rhode Island have concluded that solar development is having a negative impact on nearby home values. They looked at how prices changed before and after installation of the project and found that property values within one mile declined on average by $5,741. Now that may not seem like much, but if the loss in value is totaled for all the properties around all the solar installations the figure climbs to $1.7 billion…. https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/2020/10/01/study-solar-farms-reduce-home-values/114176042/

It has been published that the Parish Council has collected about $524,000.00 in permit fees from Project Iris. Where is the money?  As a resident of the impacted community, I have yet to see any of it spent here.

Parish President Richard “Ned” Thomas, Jr has stated, “My goal is to better ensure and preserve the quality of life in Washington Parish.” Well sir, the residents of District 7 have seen no preservation of our quality of life.

Ben M Sarro

Franklinton

Source: https://www.era-leader.com/opinion-top-stories/letter-editor-questions-about-local-solar-farm

May 4, 2021 Mary Sparks