Neighbors of proposed solar project stand up to California developer

They know the deck is stacked against them, but the opponents of a massive proposed 1,800-acre solar installation in the middle of farm country continue to put up a good fight anyway. Instead of viewing crops as far as the eye can see, San Diego-based EDF Renewables wants residents to be faced with endless rows of solar panels as far as they can see on the horizon.

At a recent public meeting for the Dodge County project just south of Byron, neighbors who reside in the area to enjoy the rural way of life made something of a last stand, according to the Post Bulletin.

Mindy Ward said she and her husband moved to rural Canisteo Township to enjoy the bucolic setting.

Now, she’s worried that the views of the countryside will be erased by the gleaming, glaring solar panels covering the landscape.

“We want to live looking out over the corn and soybeans,” Ward said.

The developer claims the huge 200-megawatt solar complex would provide power for some 30,000 homes, connecting to a nearby power substation. A bonanza in local tax revenue and payments for land rights that would be generated by the project appear to have paved the way for a likely go-ahead next year.

[Project development manager Scott] Wentzell said the project has a lot of value for the township, for Dodge County and for the roughly half-dozen landowners who signed lease agreements with EDF Renewables.

The company has been working on the project since 2018 when it began talking to landowners. During the construction phase, the project will create about 350 jobs, and there will continue to be new jobs for technicians, landscapers, snowplow drivers and others once the construction – expected to begin in 2023 if the project is approved – and the project becomes operational in 2024.

Those landowners will get about $65 million over the course of the 35-year lifespan of the solar garden, and the county and township will benefit from increased tax revenues.

Opponents raised concerns over taking such a huge swath of prime farmland out of production rather than siting the solar farm on less desirable acreage. But the economics on the table were hard to ignore.

Dodge County Commissioner Rodney Peterson said while the solar garden will create jobs even after construction, the loss of farmland will mean lost agricultural jobs. Peterson said he doesn’t have numbers, but he thinks it might be a net loss.

However, the county will see a windfall in tax dollars, Peterson said.

“We’ll gain, big time,” Peterson said. “For the county, there’s a huge increase in taxes. And for that township, an huge increase in taxes. For the county, that’s a great win for us tax-wise.”

In the end, there’s probably not much more residents can do when they come up against deep-pocketed energy behemoths like EDF Renewables. Except sell or wait until the solar panels finally come down around the year 2060.