Solar energy farms gets more support

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, August 17, 2016

To the Editor:
In his guest column in Friday’s Tidewater News (8/12/16) Mr. Bob Powell made several “spot-on” points in his defense of solar energy farms. I recently drove through a large swath of the Midwestern and Western United States (22 states), and I can assure you that agriculture is alive and well in our country.

There are many fields devoted to the production of corn and other crops which were growing prolifically; some of the fields or groups of fields appeared to be as large as Southampton County all by themselves. There is no shortage of cropland in the U.S.

One of the attributes of a free-market economy is the premise that a producer is free to produce as much as he can sell. And no single producer is large enough that his own production can control the market or its prices. Each farmer (within government regulations, naturally) is free to plant corn or soybeans or cotton or sunflowers. If he can make $100/acre growing corn or $150/acre growing soybeans, why shouldn’t he be allowed to “grow” electricity if he can make $250/acre doing that?

And I strongly dislike hearing farmers complain that local agriculture will be harmed by taking acreage out of agricultural production. In a competitive market it appears to me that farmers would welcome a reduction of the competition to sell their production. And while I’m at it, what percentage of Southampton County’s population is actively engaged in farming and dependent upon agricultural production to make a living? Two percent? Three percent? Five percent?

If solar energy “farms” prove to be a bad idea in 50 or 100 years, the underlying land will still be there. It still could be reclaimed as pasture or cropland.

I think Mr. Powell made an excellent point against opposition to solar farms derived from the argument that the electricity may be “shipped” (transmitted) beyond the bounds of Southampton County. So are most of the crops or other production created here.

I haven’t heard any complaints about local watermelons being shipped to Philadelphia for consumption there.

I believe the United States and Southampton County are running out of electric power (The growth of supply is not keeping up with the growth in demand.) much quicker that we are running out of food.

And I agree with Mr. Powell that nobody seems to want to talk about the environmental disasters being caused by agriculture right now — today. The run-off of chemicals and waste into estuaries, the draw-down of water tables by industries, all take their tolls on the environment.

I have become acutely aware in my seven decades-plus of people’s propensity to want to control other people’s property without buying that property. Nobody is asking Farmer A to refrain from growing his beans or peanuts or cotton on his land. Why then, logically or legally, should anybody other than Mr. Powell have a say-so as to whether or not he farms solar energy on land that he owns, which will not harm anybody else?

Holt M. Livesay