In Grass Lake, Solar Debate Divides Community – FOX 47 News Lansing – Jackson

2 minutes, 50 seconds Read
  • Video shows farmers with opposing views on siting large-scale solar
  • For some, solar farming seems like a blessing
  • Others worry mass solar farming will destroy traditional farming

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

As the State of Michigan strives for a green energy revolution by 2040, the debate over siting of solar farms has driven deep wedges into communities like Grass Lake.

When solar energy company NextEra came to Grass Lake with a plan to put in hundreds of acres of solar panels, farmer David Phillips thought he had a deal that would preserve the family farm.

“It’s a way to keep the land open for farming, because it sits idle and there’s nothing encroaches on it. It stays that way. I can keep it for my son,” says Phillips.

But nearby homeowners rose up, pitting neighbor against neighbor. The project was paused. But the bitterness remains.

“Those you thought were your friends, aren’t your friends,” Phillips laments.

Phillips doesn’t think much of the reasons given for opposing solar farming. He chalks it up mostly to envy: “Neighbors don’t want anything….They’re not getting nothing from it, so they’re not happy.”

On the other side of the Township, farmer Lorene Adams got a letter from another solar developer. What did she do with it?

“Ripped it up and threw it away,” she says.

“Why?” I ask her.

“The land means more to us than the money.”

Adams says she and her husband are buying up farmland to preserve it. She says turning farmland into large-scale solar could make local farming unviable.

“In order to support a family, you have to have a lot of acreage,” she notes. “Well, farmers don’t always own the property. They lease a lot. Well, if the leased ground turns into solar, then they’ve lost income and have to go elsewhere.”

According to Adams, agricultural infrastructure, like processing facilities, could also be threatened if more and more farmers stop farming to go solar.

“They [processing facilities] rely on local farms bringing the grains, corn, soybeans, whatever, for processing. They dry it, they store it, and then they resell it. And to lose thousands of acres could impact them greatly and therefore possibly close down,” she notes.

The result, says Adams: increased costs and risks for remaining farmers.

“Any grain haulers would have to go further and further, which is a big impact on their business — both financially and time-wise, too,” she observes.

Phillips worries the solar project he signed up for might not be coming back. He says: “Contracts have been expiring, so that makes you think they’re not.”

With a one-year moratorium on large-scale solar projects in place here until fall, and Michigan’s Public Act 233 taking effect shortly thereafter, which could override local opposition, NextEra has announced a strategic pause. In a letter to the Township, the Company says it has not given up, but wants to give the Township time to decide how it wants to proceed.

Adams says one thing is certain: “With the state trying to take over siting for solar, it’s going to be a big battle.

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