Ky. farmers increasingly caught up in debate over solar farms

In one county, the fiscal court has refused to issue bonds for solar farms, which has angered local farmers who want solar projects on their land.

“With the push for renewable energy and the increased federal funding available for it, many in Kentucky are concerned about an onslaught of solar power farms. Some county officials say ‘big solar’ is moving in, getting huge tax credits while taking some of the very best farmland due to the premium leases they can offer aging farmers,” Bobbie Curd reports for The Farmer’s Pride, the statewide agricultural newspaper. “But with many companies coming in from out of the country and expecting local county governments to issue millions in bonds for the projects, county officials are worried about taking high risks and believe the issue will divide communities.”

Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent told Curd that he doesn’t oppose solar energy, but feels that rural areas should not have to sacrifice prime farmland and viewsheds, which is the view of an area from a specific vantage point.

“I don’t know too many folks who truly value the beauty of the countryside who want to look out their front window and see several hundred acres of black panels,” he said.

Though there isn’t much planned solar buildout in his county yet, Brent worries that proposed projects will cause discord among locals. Farmers will likely be tempted by high offers for land, he said, but he believes international companies will put profit before the interests of the community, Curd reports.

A proposal in Clark County, just west of Lexington, already has caused conflict.

Larry Foxworthy, the judge-executive in Fleming County, said the solar projects may be too big of a financial risk. Solar companies want counties to issue revenue bonds to finance the solar farms, and say counties would not be liable if a project fails. He remains skeptical because of the lack of details or guarantee, Curd reports.

Foxworthy and others also worry that the projects won’t really create new local jobs. The issue has already caused division in the county; its governing body, the fiscal court, has refused to issue the bonds, which has angered local farmers who want solar projects on their land.

Ky. farmers increasingly caught up in debate over solar farms

The Rural Blog

The Rural Blog is a publication of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues based at the University of Kentucky.