Letter to the editor: Solar should be option for local farmers

Published 2:16 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2021

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To the editor:

We are proud of our farming heritage of more than 40 years in Davie County, which is why I’m calling upon the Davie County Board of Commissioners to approve the Junction solar farm project in the near future. As Davie County cattle farmers, we’ve worked hard to raise our family, paid our taxes, and played by the rules.

We are asking our county commissioners to grant us a level playing field that has been terribly tipped in favor of a few anti-development activists and affluent homeowners, some who have lived here for just a few years or less. For months, we have heard falsehoods, personal attacks and misinformation coming from this relatively small, but powerful group, which has been surprising given how clean energy is a proven boon for farmers and rural communities across North Carolina.

Pastor David Gilbreath did a great job laying out how other North Carolina counties are reaping the rewards of solar industry in his recent letter, “Solar can help county grow, prosper.” Davie County now has the opportunity to capitalize on this growing, safe and reliable industry.

When my family and several other farming families decided to lease some of our farmland to bring in a $90 million solar farm on Junction and Ratledge roads, we thought it was a win-win for both our families and Davie County.

Less than 180 acres of actual solar panels will be spread out across about 500 fenced-in acres of land in rural parts of the county. The remaining acreage will be used for setbacks, vegetative buffers, berms, and environmental and landowner exclusions. You’ll hardly see it from the road or neighboring properties.

The project will create as many as 200 good, blue collar construction jobs, lasting upwards to a year, and then several permanent full-time jobs right here in Davie County. Our county government will get $2 million in new property tax revenue from the project, which can pay for more firefighters, educators, deputies, public works and community services. The good news is the county doesn’t have to pay one penny for this economic and environmentally-friendly opportunity.

We’ve lived for more than 40 years on Ratledge Road, where we were some of the first to build and operate a farm. As a cattle farmer, we are part of the land and we wouldn’t do anything to harm the environment that has given us so much. Let us be very clear, if we had any thoughts or fears that this project would be harmful to this neighborhood or county, we would not have leased our land and would not be writing this letter. Therefore, installing part of the Junction solar farm on our land preserves our land for future farming, while leaving a legacy and steady income to our children and grandchildren. That’s our right as farmers and property owners, but people opposing the solar farm don’t respect our rights.

The opposition alleges that a solar farm will harm the land, but they only offer internet research that only validates their fears and selfishness. The reality is the majority of  the sky is falling hysteria is really a smoke screen hiding the real nature of the opposition, and that’s a few affluent neighbors who simply don’t want to see it as they drive to work.

These few are very powerful and wield political influence at the county level. We are pleading to our county commissioners to give us farmers a fair chance to use our land for a solar project that helps our families and Davie County. We’ve reached out to every county commissioner, inviting them to our farm to give them a personal tour and only one has accepted our offer. We hope all the commissioners accept our invite and see for themselves why the Junction solar project is a great opportunity for our community, Davie County, and our farming family.

By not accepting our invitation, we are concerned that a few affluent powerbrokers will continue to put their thumbs on the scales of fairness that’ll undermine our ability to take care of our family and the families of other farmers in this county.

We love living here and it’s our hope that the commissioners respect the years of honest hard work we have given to the community, and they show that respect to us and our fellow farmers by voting in favor of our solar farm in Davie County.

Jerry and Linda Shore