I am writing in response to the Nov. 18 Tri-City Times article “Harvesting the Sun,” on behalf of my fellow property owners in Goodland Township.

I am disappointed the article did not look into any possible drawbacks of such a project. Take a ride on Brown City Rd. from Bowers Rd. north to Shaw Rd. and look at the open fields and wooded areas. If this project passes, instead of thriving countryside, the driver will see nothing but solar panels. The second wave of the project hopes to install panels north from Shaw Rd. all the way to Kohler Rd. and possibly south of Bowers Rd. into Imlay Twp.

According to the article, Orion Renewable Energy has 2,800 acres participating, but the footprint will be far smaller. What does that mean exactly? How much smaller? To put this project in perspective, one football field takes up about 1.32 acres. If the full 2,800 acres is developed, this is equivalent to installing around 2,100 football fields in our township. Would our neighbors agree with such a project? Or since the project is labeled “green,” we should automatically believe it is good for the environment and our community?

One of the most devastating consequences of this project is the loss of one of our most valuable resources—land. Having the ability and acreage to feed our community and the world is priceless. According to the American Farmland Trust, “Over the last 20 years, we’ve lost 31 million acres of farmland-that’s equivalent to all the farmland in Iowa. That’s over 1.5 million acres a year, or three acres every minute.” The overwhelming majority of this land has been lost to development. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, having access to local food sources is vital to any community. The loss of American farmland sometimes results in large corporate farms and foreign governments controlling our food supply. According to NPR, about 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors.

Homeowners looking to live a country lifestyle and enjoy the substantial investment of owning property will also see negative impacts from a solar farm. According to economists at the University of Rhode Island, after reviewing property sales in Rhode Island and Massachusetts over a ten-year period they found that prices of homes within a mile of a solar installation declined by 1.7% and homes within a tenth of a mile went down by 7%.

What will Orion Renewable Energy and Goodland Twp. officials say in response? The bottom line speaks for itself: developing these projects in rural areas is cheapest and easiest for energy companies, while the homeowner suffers.

The consequences locally are vast, but those who truly care about the environment should look for “green” solutions that don’t harm one of our strongest assets when fighting climate change—plants. Plants and trees remove more carbon dioxide from the environment compared to any offset from a “green project” installed on the same acreage at the current efficiency rates of the technology. Yes, solar power has a place in helping combat climate change, but let’s think about whether this project provides more negatives than positives.

Other possible negatives of this project include destruction of pasture and productive farmland, displacement of wildlife, topsoil erosion and a loss of opportunity for the next generation of prospective farmers.

There’s also the possible contamination of natural resources from broken/damaged panels. We had a severe hail storm this past April and panels are constructed of many toxic chemicals.

Let’s be honest, this project is an industrial project and should be built on industrial property. Try researching Orion Renewable Energy LLC and look into the investors and shareholders of this company. Ask yourself who has the most to gain from such a project?

I urge all local residents to research this topic and attend both Imlay Twp. and Goodland Twp. meetings to voice your opinion. Removing this resource will be devastating to the future generation of farmers looking to carry on the traditions that founded this township. We have some very bright and talented young people in this community who are dreaming of farming as a future. My son is one of them.

There’s increasing development coming from the south into Almont and now this project scheduled to the north. Please consider the dreams of the next generation along with the conservation of our resources so all can thrive in the years to come.

—Jessica Keeping,
Imlay Township