Facts should drive decisions about solar projects


Barry Keyes

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The letter, “Solar amendment decision should be based on facts,” in your Nov. 14 edition made some interesting observations.

“Only 20 percent of the appraised value of solar energy systems are subject to property tax under N.C. General Statue,” the letter states. While this is true of the non-land assets, solar equipment still generates more tax revenue than farm assets because of the massive investment in solar equipment. Furthermore, farmland is taxed at a fixed rate of $990 per acre whereas solar farmland is taxed at a fixed rate of $5,000 per acre: over five times as much.

“If the cost of solar energy was really competitive, there would be no need to force utilities to build (renewable energy systems),” the letter goes on. This is partially true but not germane to what is happening in Pasquotank. It is not the utilities in North Carolina that have built wind and solar systems and who are proposing to build the solar project here. Those companies were not and are not being forced to build here.

The letter claims that solar and wind are not competitive with fossil fuel systems. While true at this time, the cost of generating power from onshore wind has fallen by around 23 percent since 2010, while the cost of solar photovoltaic electricity has fallen by 73 percent in that time. With further price falls expected for these and other green energy options, IRENA says all renewable energy technologies should be competitive on price with fossil fuels by 2020. It is not unusual for governments in the U.S., China, France and Germany, for example, to provide incentives for startup technologies until they achieve economies of scale and lower costs. Farmers also receive subsidies to which I have no problem even though they’re paid for by our taxes.

The claim “profits from farming flow into the local economy, while utility income flows out of state” is true but misleading. The income that the utility pays the farmer to lease or purchase his land stays in the region. Do you wish to deny farmers the choice to option, lease or sell their land rather than farm it? Our farmers are very important to our region. But I believe if a farmer wants to sell his land we have no right to stop him. If he sells to a solar company, the money he receives will stay here. Solar farms provide more tax revenue than farmland. Also, solar and wind farms require no new schools, trash pickup, potable water or other services. 

Another misleading fact has been bandied about lately: Solar panels contain toxic cadmium that has the potential to leach into the ground. Once upon a time this was true but all modern solar panels do not contain cadmium. I would be all for a county ordinance banning solar panels containing cadmium just to be sure.

Pasquotank County has an opportunity to invest in our future now instead of waiting for some potential industry to shine on us some 30 years from now.

Barry Keyes

Elizabeth City