Editorial on solar plants missed the mark

I was shocked to read The Free Lance–Star’s editorial board condemn local landowners who chose to invest in the proposed Cricket Solar Project [“Preserve Ag land for agriculture,” Aug. 8].

Let’s set the record straight.

The editorial pointed to a poll suggesting approximately half of Culpeper residents oppose a nearby solar project, but overlooked how the Culpeper Star–Exponent’s reporter was denied details on the poll by the surveyors, McLaughlin & Associates.

McLaughlin has been disavowed by the Republican Party for producing the most inaccurate polls of all time. Its most infamous error? Culpeper County, 2014: missing Eric Cantor’s primary loss to Dave Brat by 48 points.

Solar projects create hundreds of jobs during construction, keep a maintenance crew during operation, and add $1.7 million in county tax revenue. A study from North Carolina (home to much more solar than Virginia) found solar facilities yield a whopping 1,962 percent increase in county property tax revenue over parcels’ existing land use.

Claiming solar power increases electricity costs, the editors referenced research from the University of Chicago that was prematurely released and never peer-reviewed. Energy experts have dismissed the working paper, and Dominion deemed solar a least-cost resource in Virginia.

There is no evidence solar projects harm property values or lead to tourism revenue declines. In fact, unlike other forms of industrial development, solar projects generate tax revenue without costly infrastructure, such as water or sewer lines.

After construction, solar projects emit no air, water, noise, or light pollution. They have low impacts on land arability, especially compared with residential or industrial development.

Finally, consider what we know the D.C. pollsters certainly did not ask: Who would like a gas or coal plant built next door instead?

Rachel Smucker

Manager of Virginia Policy & Development

Maryland DC Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association

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