Three concerns about Urbana Solar

This letter is in response to the June 24 article about the Urbana Solar Project.

Three things struck me as I read the article.

First – Again, no local control

The conversion of prime farmland from agricultural use is usually decided by local zoning regulations and citizen input. However, just like with industrial wind turbines, the approval process for industrial solar facilities resides with unelected Columbus board members, not with the local community. The board does require the project to meet certain criteria, one being a “need” for the project. A fair review of this project would conclude that Ohio/Champaign county/Urbana does not need a 1500 acre solar facility, especially since Ohio currently has no solar power requirement.

Second – I don’t live there

The Urbana Solar project is slated to convert almost 1500 acres of Champaign county farmland to industrial use. Of the 1500 acres, almost 600 acres (40%) are owned by people from Springfield, Columbus and South Bend Indiana. It’s certainly true that landowners can change the use of their property, but it’s also true that it is very easy to agree to industrialize someone else’s, as opposed to your own, neighborhood.

Third – Below average is now “exceptional”

A spokesman for the solar company, Pattern Energy, states that the Urbana area was chosen for an industrial solar project in part because of “exceptional solar resources.” Logically, one critical resource would be the number of sunny days in the area. But statistics show the US yearly average for sunny days is 205 while Urbana’s average is 176. In most cases a score that is below average is not considered exceptional.

In conclusion, Columbus board members, out of area landowners, and biased companies are currently deciding what our community will look like. Ohio lawmakers should enact legislation to allow residents a vote when deciding if industrial solar or wind facilities should be a part of their community.

Barbara Behling

Urbana Township