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To the People of Linn County

I manage some land for my brother-in-law.  I negotiated a lease of part of his property to Swan Solar, LLC.  Listening to recordings of the ad hoc committee meetings about Linn County zoning restrictions on solar farm developments, I became concerned about the vehement opposition to hearing testimony from developers or “landowners who don’t live here.” I still hope that the purpose of any hearing is to learn the truth, regardless of who’s interests that serves.

 

I was pleased by the decorum and community spirit exhibited at the Public Forum for Solar Discussion.  Even so, I left with concern about the amount of misinformation we heard, with no opportunity to offer facts in rebuttal.  Therefore, I respectfully submit the following comments on behalf of my brother-in-law (Linn County landowner and taxpayer), myself, and the quiet majority of residents who will benefit from solar power development in Linn County.

 

A couple of dozen vocal opponents worked to leave the impression that no residents want solar farms permitted in Linn County; but over 10,000 residents will benefit from significant tax burden relief, and stable local jobs will be created.

 

We were told that peoples’ homes would be “surrounded by panels on three sides.”  The existing special use permitting process for each project can, and should, prevent any significant detriment to adjacent properties.

 

We were told that rainwater runoff will be greatly accelerated by solar farms.  It will not.  The proposed panels will be post-mounted individually.  Rainwater will be shed onto the same earth it falls on now. The soil permeability will not change, and neither will the runoff.  If some leveling is done, that will delay runoff and improve absorption.

 

A video being circulated locally claims that the proposed solar farms would be “800 times as loud” as a small solar farm shown in the film.  For economic reasons, inverters are installed in the center of solar fields.  Therefore, the “humming sound” produced by inverters is quieter at the edge of a large field than at the edge of a small one.

 

We were told that there would be a terrible glare from sunlight reflecting off of the panels.  Because the panels will rotate to face the sun, they can only reflect back at the sun.  They can’t reflect the sun at anyone whose shadow is not on the panels.

 

We were told that hazardous metals will contaminate our land.  The photovoltaic materials are encapsulated in glass laminates.  No foreign material will contaminate our land.

We were told that the fields of solar panels will be “abandoned when the developers go broke” and “taxpayers will have to pay to remove the debris.”  The person making that statement did not mention that the leases require performance bonds by regulated insurers, issued to both the landowner and Linn County, assuring restoration of all leased land to its original condition.

 

We were told that the character of Linn County will be changed to that of an industrial zone.  The fact is that, if the entire solar farm acreage allotment is developed, solar farms will occupy less than 2% of Linn County.

 

We were told that we should not be allowed to do business with a French company because France has diplomatic relations with China.  The United States of America has diplomatic relations with China, and does a lot more business with China than France does.

 

We were told that we should not be allowed to do business with a French company because the French Government refinanced them.  When the United States Government rescued General Motors a few years ago, the French people weren’t clamoring to throw GM out of France.  How is that different?  Of course, France has only been our steadfast ally for 248 years.

 

Setback requirements as extreme as 1,000 feet have been advocated by some opponents because they know that requirement would terminate our projects.  Yet, our neighbors would remain free to build corrugated metal grain bins and machine shops ten feet from our property.   No equal treatment of everyone’s property rights was proposed.

 

The setback demands are an attempt to regulate our free enterprise out of business so we can’t compete with fossil fuels in the electric power generation market. On a square section of land (640 acres), a 1,000-foot setback would consume 439 acres of the land (over two-thirds).  A 500’ setback would consume 231 acres (36%).  The lease contracts do not obligate the developer to lease land they cannot use.  All of the loss is incurred by the landowner.

 

Some folks here don’t want any appearance of industry in their neighborhood.  Yet, they have lived their entire lives around the LaCygne Power Plant, and it is far more ugly than a field of solar panels.  

 

Even when the existing plant closes, it will still be a hub of the distribution grid.  Electricity must be generated near the hubs of the existing grid.  The utility companies will not abandon that infrastructure.  Replacing it would be wasteful and irresponsible to an extent that would be ethically inexcusable.

 

It is best if clean power production can be developed with private capital in a free market, with respect for the rights of property owners, and with a reasonable degree of consideration of the aesthetic sensitivities of others.  If the electric utility companies can’t purchase solar power from independent developers, they will eventually condemn our properties and build that infrastructure themselves.  If that happens, they will have no inconvenient local restrictions.

 

Property rights, especially our right to own and manage productive assets, are the essential difference between our democratic republic and a communist state.  Our right to use our land should not be limited to the use our neighbors most prefer.  The due process provided by the permitting requirement for each development project exists to limit harm to adjacent properties.  That established process of considering each project on its merits is enough.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

Henry H. Chamberlain

Bonner Springs, Kansas

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