Board of Commissioners
Klickitat County, Washington
May 4, 2021
RE: Public Comments on Industrial-Scale Solar Arrays in Klickitat County
My name is Bonner Cohen, and I am a senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a Washington, D.C.-based organization that focuses its research and advocacy on how environmental and energy policies affect ordinary citizens.
As someone who has written widely on renewable energy, I am pleased that the commissioners have agreed to hold a hearing today, at which local residents will have a forum to express their opinions on the building and operation of large-scale solar arrays near their homes and places of business. County residents are rightly concerned about the long-term environmental and public-safety impacts of industrial-scale solar arrays to be operated by out-of-state utilities with little regard for how their generation of intermittent energy will lower the quality of life in Klickitat County.
With taxpayer subsidies, Wall Street money, and government mandates behind it, Big Solar, like Big Wind, is a force to be reckoned with. And that’s exactly what Klickitat residents are finding out.
Environmental and Safety Issues
Solar panels have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years. They are notoriously difficult to recycle, because the cost of recovering the materials outweighs the cost of extracting what can be recycled. As a result, most end up being dumped in landfills or shipped off to developing countries. The dead panels are laden with toxic chemicals that can leech into groundwater if landfills are not properly lined. By 2050, the world will have to deal with nearly 80 million tons of solar waste. An even greater risk is posed by batteries used to generate power when the sun isn’t shining such as at night. These batteries are also loaded with toxic chemicals, and when the batteries die and must be disposed of, the chemicals inside them can also contaminate soil and groundwater. What is being billed as “clean” energy has the potential to create a new class of hazardous waste sites.
Threat of Wildfires
Another subject advocates of renewable energy are reluctant to address honestly is the threat these industrial-scale facilities pose of igniting or spreading wildfires.
This is not just a hypothetical threat.
In June 2019, a bird flew into two wires at a California solar farm, creating an electrical circuit and a shower of sparks. The resulting fire scorched 1,127 acres, adding to California’s perennial wildfire woes.
Klickitat County has already had its first wildfire courtesy of renewable energy. The county currently has over 600 wind turbines, and in 2019 one of them caused the Juniper fire, which destroyed 500 acres. County officials are eagerly pushing for more giant solar facilities but have steadfastly refused to update ordinances so as to protect residents from wildfires caused by solar arrays. Klickitat’s dry, windy climate makes for an ideal setting for wildfires. The more high-voltage solar farms there are in the county, the higher the risk of potentially catastrophic blazes.
Solar Array Tax Revenues vs. Quality of Life
County officials should not let their desire for the solar industry’s promised tax revenues take precedence over safeguarding landowners from wildfires and the numerous other hazards associated with giant solar arrays. This is why the proposed Lund Hill project, with its 1.8 million large solar panels on 6,000 acres of prime farmland, all surrounded by an eight-foot-high fence, is such a terrible idea. That this monstrosity would be erected in the name of “clean energy” is simply absurd.
Solar arrays are an intermittent, land-intensive source of power that benefits Wall Street investors, out-of-state utilities, and Chinese suppliers to the detriment of ordinary working people.
Thank you very much.
Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D.
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow