Editorial: Solar farms not right for Washington County


Being environmentally conscious is important. That includes the use of renewable and sustainable energy, which helps conserve the nation's natural resources.

Last week, Bluestem Energy Solutions, an Omaha-based renewable energy company, presented plans to the Washington County Planning Commission for the potential installation of two solar farms in the county. The 100-megawatt project would be located northeast of Arlington and west of Kennard, with one plant located near the intersection of county roads 15 and P30 and the second plan near the intersection of county roads 23 and 32, respectively.

According to Matt Robinette, the company's vice president of development, the facilities would generate approximately enough electricity to power 25,000 homes annually.

The project, which costs $130 million, would create approximately 175 jobs during construction and three to five long-term jobs for the operation of the facility.

All of that sounds well and good. No one is saying that using renewable energy is wrong, but this project isn't right for Washington County.

The plans indicate the solar farms would total 715 acres — 400 for the site near Arlington and 315 for the site near Kennard. That's equivalent to 500 football fields. A typical family farm is 80 acres.

Instead of using prime farmland, it seems it would be better to find land that's not useable, perhaps an old landfill.

More than 30 residents voiced their concerns at the commission's meeting last week. Those concerns included the loss of agricultural acres, the disruption to their lives and the potential toxicity and safety of the panels. In one case, a resident said the facilities would completely surround her home.

The planning commission unanimously voted to recommend denying the request for two conditional use permits for the project. The decision now goes to the Washington County Board of Supervisors, who will discuss it at their Oct. 27 meeting.

Hopefully, the board abides by the recommendation and listens to residents.


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