Brownwood News – TLOW (Texas Landowners Opposing Wind) is a local organization of about 300 persons which, as its name indicates, is opposed to wind power turbines in the Central Texas area. The organization has also come out in opposition to the proposed solar power farm project in southern Brown County.
As reported previously in Brownwoodnews.com, IP Radian Solar LLC, from California, has proposed a 300 mega-watt solar power farm west of Brookesmith which would consist of nearly 2000-acres of solar panels. In January the Brookesmith ISD school board voted to create a 3000-acre “Radian Reinvestment Zone” and granted a Chapter 313 Appraised Value Limitation, which would reduce the amount of property taxes owed to BISD by IP Radian Solar.
Scott Killingsworth with TLOW sat down with Brownwoodnews.com to explain why his group is opposed to the solar project. Among the objections:
(1) The Chapter 313 agreements, which limit taxes, amount to corporate welfare.
(2) Any business venture that relies on tax credits is not a viable or sustainable business.
(3) The Texas Legislature passed the Chapter 313 tax abatement agreement as a method to attract industry and create jobs. However the law does allow for the relevant taxing entity to waive the jobs requirement, which in this case was done by the Brookesmith ISD, reducing the minimum jobs requirement to two jobs, down from ten. TLOW argues that the job requirement waiver defeats the purpose of the Chapter 313 tax abatement.
(4) This is long-term, multi-generational project which needs to be thoroughly understood by all residents of Brown County. The leases for the project are for 21-1/2 years (1-1/2 years of construction plus 20 years for operation of the power farm), with six five-year options, for a total of 51-1/2 years.
(5) Solar power, like wind power, is not consistent or sustainable, and requires fossil fuel power as a back-up.
(6) The project will destroy vegetation and wildlife habitat over the 2000-acres of solar panels.
(7) The project will decrease surrounding land values.
(8) While solar power is a clean form of power, the solar panels do carry an environmental risk. The panels contain toxic metals such as lead and cadmium. If damaged by extreme weather events, the toxic materials can leak into the ground creating a hazard. The panels can also create a hazard at the time of end-of-life disposal in landfills, if extra protective steps are not taken.
Concerning the decrease to surrounding land values, Killingsworth conceded he had no data to support that argument, but rather it was based on conversations with realtors. The Solar Energy Industries Association web site (www.seia.org) shows data from studies of solar farms in several states that show little effect on surrounding property values, ranging from -1% to +3%.
Concerning the environmental hazard concern, the SEIA web site says solar panels can be refurbished, reused, and recycled, but interestingly is silent on the issue of end-of-life disposal of the panels.
Killingsworth said that IP Radian Solar currently has ten signed leases totaling 1,970 acres.
As of this time, a tax abatement has not been requested from Brown County. TLOW is opposed to an abatement from the County, partially because an abatement granted to the solar project would set a bad precedent in the event that wind turbine developers come to the County.
Documents from the Texas Comptroller show that the solar project would generate an estimated $11,443,329 of tax revenue for the Brookesmith ISD over 25 years. The documents also show that Brown County would receive an estimated $8,315,589 of tax revenue over 15 years, if taxed at full value and no abatement granted by the County.
The project, if committed to by IP Radian Solar, would begin construction in early 2021 with construction complete by mid-2022. Three-hundred to five-hundred jobs would be created during the construction phase of the project.
For more information on TLOW, see their web site: www.TLOW.org.
(story by Mike Blagg)