Editor, The Era-Leader:
In response to Mr. LeBlanc’s last letter, Concerned Citizens of Washington Parish (CCWP) would like to update the community about the facts that continue to surface surrounding the utility scale solar projects, actual and proposed.
If a person does very much research on the internet he would know specific key words are coded and/or paid for to determine the list of responses given. For example, the Tangipahoa solar project group has paid extra money for anyone googling solar anything in the surrounding parish area to have their ad pop up at the top of the search list. Google, Inc., being one of the prime investors of solar energy, has also filtered and promoted the key term “solar farm.” In the majority of articles that actually come up under solar farm, the semi-renewable energy is portrayed positively. Even when doing a more in-depth search through Google Scholar, the term “solar farm” brings up mainly research proving solar to be beneficial in every aspect. However, when looking up solar farm synonyms such as photovoltaic (PV), utility scale solar, or solar energy will a person find the more accurately represented research studies and truth about the legally termed Solar Energy Plants (SEPS). It can be looked at as simple “semantics,” but when the public is being guided to only the information allowed by a corporation standing to reap mega profits, it is not so simple.
As far as money spent by workers in the parish or even the solar sales reps themselves, the vast majority resided and continue to spend their money on hotel accommodations outside of the Parish. The sales reps were specifically asked if they ever stayed in the Parish, and they said no, not even once.
On to more facts - The June 9, 2021 issue of The Era-Leader reported that a Town Hall meeting was held during which both DESRI and the Iris Solar reps admitted that it would take until 2031 to pay property taxes of $1.6 million. This is much less than the tens of millions boasted by the landowners who have been promised to reap hefty incomes from contracting their property. Side note: According to the last Parish financial report, the Parish has a general fund balance of $1.8 million dollars. The Parish does not need more solar projects to make it financially stable, it is doing well right now. The Parish does depend on money spent in the Parish to continue generating money for operating funds. SEPS will deter community growth and has already driven away new families from the Parish. The Parish does depend on the community to remain stable or to grow. Neither of which SEPS contribute to.
Fact: Solar company goals are to make a profit as any soluble business would. Although, their profit margins heavily rely on government incentives, both State and Federal, before and after construction. The solar companies in this regional area have been created in the last three years and are LLC’s.. Protected entities. Iris Solar, LLC, and others have been assigned LEI numbers, meaning the contracts have the potential to be offered on an international stock market. If Iris Solar, LLC., goes bankrupt, the investors holding the actual contract may be in other countries outside of the United States. Did the land owner make provisions in the initial contract for Iris Solar, LLC., to be the only party involved? Or is the land owner wealthy enough to pursue this secondary company in an international court of law should they default??
The money promised and benefits everyone is being told they will gain does not add up. A CPA already disproved the promised revenue to the Parish. What other numbers are being fudged? Researching several other established solar projects and in re-reading the local articles written concerning solar, I did notice some very common wording...projected to produce, estimated output, most likely, should supply. All terms used to avoid the word actual. There’s a SEP in Saudi Arabia that went online 7 years ago. The output of this 17 square mile project is still being reported as “estimated to power” 360,000 homes. A person would stand to reason that after 7 years, a successful business would be able to report actual numbers. There is no mention of the fact that in actuality SEPs operate at 30% efficiency on the best days, and this particular project has been met with serious problems like keeping the panels clean through desert dust storms. This is Louisiana where we have had pollen, humidity, clouds, and rain the majority of this year. Humidity alone can reduce the solar panel productivity to 15%. Green energy anyone?
More questions from the CCWP: If pastureland were worth $5,000 per acre, why would a Solar Company be willing to pay rent of $1,000 per acre per year for 25 years? Surely, purchasing the land outright would be much more profitable. A possible answer is that the solar company sees buying the land as a greater risk than leasing. Perhaps the most logical explanation is that the solar company fears abandonment might happen in earlier years before the lease expires. Early abandonment could be caused by the rapid growth of technology, which may render the plant obsolete and not eligible for an upgrade. This would make it it no longer profitable. If this occurs and the solar company owns the land then they will be obligated to spend millions for decommissioning. Accordingly, they possibly prefer to lease and possibly leave the landowner liable or ultimately Washington Parish if the landowner decides to clear out. Again, is there any wording in the private land owner contract protecting themselves or the citizens in the Parish from this disaster? And by the way, prices of solar energy sales are plummeting across the world due to the influx of so many new solar projects being developed. This will negatively effect profits before the solar companies even go online here.
The use of SEPS is an uncontested new energy field with very little guidelines, restrictions or research to prove what they are or they are not. Probability of the land being returned to a previously fertile land is one of those gray areas. With the growing rate of urban areas encroaching agricultural properties, we do not have the luxury to “wait and see” if it can be returned to agricultural use. This is a real concern that must be examined before converting from agriculture to solar. Meeting food production for growing populations has been on the forefront in every country for the last 40 years. Fact!
As many citizens and Washington Parish leaders realize, it is not about a landowner leasing his property to anyone he wishes. It’s not about being totally against SEPS. NO! It is about Washington Parish exercising it’s lawful duty to set rules and regulate the construction and operation of a utility scale solar plant, like other industries, protecting the parish and all of its citizens. Solar plant rules and regulations must be well designed to safeguard everyone’s health, prosperity and property rights without intent to discourage or encourage the location of any legitimate solar plant in the Parish. Fact!
Jennifer Brown on behalf of
Washington Parish Concerned Citizens