Conservative Message on Solar in Heartland

September 21, 2022

Conservatives for renewable energy. It is definitely a thing.

Bowling Green Daily News:

Bringing solar energy to Kentucky will likely require conservative voices and conservative reasoning, according to a panel of speakers addressing Barren County stakeholders at a Thursday night community dinner in a Glasgow Gondolier’s back room.

The event, hosted by Land & Liberty Coalition’s Kentucky chapter, was designed to educate local property owners and public officials on renewable energy. About a dozen people showed up.

The event’s goal was not to “sell” anything to the stakeholders on behalf of developers, but rather to empower decision makers to make their own choices with accurate, updated information, according to Kris Fields, community engagement and education manager at the nonprofit Center for Energy Education.

“We strictly come into communities to try to educate the people because we find that a lot of the issues with solar are really fairly common myths that we see across the board,” Fields said. “You see things like, ‘Well, the radiation …’ or ‘It causes these diseases’ or ‘It affects the groundwater’ and those things are pretty easily dismissed with a little bit of information.”

Justin Poland, Kentucky L&LC field director, said there’s a political aspect to renewable energy efforts. In rural areas like Barren County, he said that a largely conservative population needs to know that “the economics of the issue has worked out.”

One to two decades ago, solar was less cost-effective, but advancements have now made it profitable, Poland said. However, many are still operating on outdated information when making decisions.

“This isn’t the past; it’s the present,” Poland said. “These projects are successful on their own merits. … We’re able to pay farmers more for leasing their land than they would make on their own farming.”

In addition to profitability, conservative arguments for solar energy include the protection of private property rights and national security, said Jackson Keith, L&LC national director. By diversifying energy sources, the U.S. can increase its energy independence and consequently gain a competitive advantage on the world stage, he said.

Solar projects also bring money to local governments, Keith added.

“I think the real incentive for local governments is the money from the tax revenue these solar panels will pay versus a neighboring county that doesn’t decide to go this route,” he said.

According to American Farmland Trust, the U.S. has lost more than 11 million acres of farmland in the past 20 years, mostly to low-density residential development. Farmers faced with tough decisions in the current economic climate about whether to sell their land and contribute to this suburban sprawl have another option in solar development, Fields said.

“(The farmer) doesn’t have to sell his farm. And so maybe he’s got grandchildren that he would like to farm that land one day, well now that’s still a possibility,” Fields said. “Whereas if he sells it, it’s gone. If he develops it into two-acre suburban tracts with homes, that will never be farmland again.”

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