Editor, The Era-Leader:
I write in response to the recent letter and commentary regarding solar farm concerns in Washington Parish. Opinions on solar farm development should be made upon consideration of all the facts, many of which the letter and commentary left out.
These projects will bring millions of dollars of much needed tax revenue to the parish. Washington Parish will receive over one million dollars from sales taxes on the new equipment, roughly a quarter million dollar in permitting fees, and over twelve million dollars over the life of the Sunlight Road project in property taxes. In addition, between Iris (LSU project) and Sunlight Road project, hundreds of construction workers have been and will be working here locally, spanning a couple years of increased sales at local businesses and more parish sales taxes. When both projects are complete, there will also be a small number of full time jobs added permanently, which further helps our local tax base.
I understand and empathize that some citizens may simply just not like the appearance of a solar farm. It must be noted these projects will be fenced and surrounded by vegetative screening. I believe a screened solar farm is far less of an eye sore than many of the aging industrial plants, mills, and gravel pits scattered throughout the parish. There are no smokestacks, no blinking lights, and no unpleasant odors emanating from a solar farm. Solar farms will take up less than one percent of available farmland. Once built, there will be no stream of heavy duty trucks or other traffic. It will basically sit there and produce clean energy.
As a parish without zoning, we have always deeply valued the importance of land use rights. We hold dear the idea that each landowner can do with his land as he pleases, as long as no laws are broken. Private landowners who freely sign lease agreements with solar developers should be able to do so if they please. Most landowners are rightfully always looking for more ways to monetize their property, after all.
I support the parish passing an ordinance, to ensure that concerned citizens' voices are heard, and to hold solar developers accountable for what they build. But we need be careful to ensure that a few of the loud voices in the room in opposition aren't over represented here and quell positive growth and investment locally for everyone else.