On a gorgeous May Saturday morning, somewhere around 150 folks on both sides of the issue met to listen to a presentation by Orion Solar LLC and voice support or objections to the plan to build a solar farm in Goodland Township.
The Goodland Township Planning Commission will vote on the request for a special land use and site plan by Orion Renewable Energy Group LLC as a necessary step in pursuing this project.
Orion Renewables is an LLC, a limited liability company. It is not a government entity as some of those who were objecting, stated or implied. If they are taking advantage of government subsidies or tax writes-off then that would be called smart business, as that fellow who was formerly president bragged when he was criticized for not paying taxes. The mistrust of government and the intentions of this business were a recurrent theme of the objectors. I hear that concern, but am reminded that government is us, no more, no less. I reject the premise that all in government are corrupt and only self serving. I see people trying to do their best in most cases. And I have known visionary, brilliant, generous people working to transform the energy environment as a motivating force in their life and careers.
Speaking in support of the project were farmers and landowners seeking to lease their land to help maintain their farms and ranches. For them the sun is another crop; one that does not pollute the land and water with agricultural chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. The plan also calls for planting pollinator supporting and wildlife enhancing cover grasses. With appropriate plantings under the arrays, the soil is replenished over the duration of the project. It is also possible to use the land for pasture or crops while the solar farm is in operation, this developing practice is called “agrivoltaics” but is not part of this current plan. The children or grandchildren inherit restored lands and are hopefully interested in continuing to be future farmer/ranchers when the solar apparatus is decommissioned in 25 years.
Present were also a few “eco geekos” as my son called us, of which I admit to being one. I see being part of a move away from fossil fuels as a positive development. The alternative to pursuing sustainable energy is to squeeze every last drop out of the earth through drilling and fracking for gas and oil. Methane, the main product of fracking, is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2—thirty times more potent. Methane leaks from the wells and from pipelines, particularly as regulations to tighten up leaks were rolled back as too restrictive and expensive. The by-product of fracking is lots of contaminated water, fracking fluid, which is then pumped into the ground, often back into former oil and gas wells to supposedly stay isolated from aquifers forever.
I am not so naive as to imagine this project will be without problems or issues. Hopefully we will have the skill and wisdom to meet these unavoidable challenges. We have been compared to the frog that doesn’t jump out of the hot water as the heat is turned up but allows itself be cooked because the threat increased gradually but steadily. This project is an opportunity to move forward and attempt to hop out of the stewpot. We may or may not make it, but we owe it to the future to try.