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US Families Divided Over Clean Energy vs. Crop Production

Worries about losing cropland to solar farms have led to an emerging opposition against what is being called a ‘solar invasion’ in Missouri in the US.

From her century-old home, Susan Burns has watched the sunset over her cousin's field every day for 75 years in Callaway County, Missouri. Now her cousin has agreed to have solar panels installed on the land and an unhappy Burns has decided to stand up against the project.

Foreseeing vast expanses of solar farms replacing cropland, Burns has begun recruiting other community members with similar concerns. "I lose my view. I lose my health. I lose my safety." Burns did not expand on what health or safety risks solar farms pose.

Are large solar farms a real concern?

Ranger Power, a renewables company, has plans to set up a 250-megawatt project which would power nearly 35,000 homes. There has been a months-long conversation going on between county officials and residents about the €275 million investment.

Another concern is the lack of tax revenue that goes to the county. In Missouri, solar panels are currently exempt from local taxes. Residents are also concerned the value of their properties dropping if they are surrounded by solar farms.

Peter Endres, development director with Ranger Power, met residents at the North Callaway School Board meeting and assured them that solar panels would be at least 45 metres from any homes. He added that the land could actually be healthier at the end of the project, as native plants and pollinators grow in the soil and rebuild nutrients. Also, the panels would be removed without trace in 30-35 years, at the end of the project. The company has also shown interest in paying funds to the county annually for the duration of the project.


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