Some residents wary of solar farms appearing across Central Texas

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 10:18 PM CDT
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CENTRAL Texas (KWTX) - Solar farm projects are being planned across rural parts of Central Texas at a rapid rate but not everyone is in favor of them.

Solar farms are fields of solar panels that capture the sun’s rays and converts it into electricity.

Near Burlington in Milam County a 7,000 acre solar farm named Ben Milam Solar is planned to be constructed by Samsung C&aT, according to Milam County Judge Steve Young.

Young says the Solar Farm is expected to bring in about $10 million in tax revenue for the county within the first 10 years. Although, the county is providing a tax abatement for Samsung as an incentive to attract the business of the solar farm.

“This is something we want in our county and I’m excited to welcome these companies here,” said Young.

The land for solar farms are typically leased out by private land owners for 30 years with a 20 year renewability. Because the lands are privately owned, county government cannot stop the solar farms from coming in. However, farmer like Augustus Fleming who oppose solar farms say they at least want the counties and school districts to stop providing the tax abatement incentives to solar companies.

Fleming is a farmer at his family’s farm called Fleming Grain and Cattle. His family has been working on the land just east of Troy for decades but thing will likely change soon as a solar farm called Elm Creek Solar is set to be constructed just opposite the Fleming’s farm.

“It’s a waste of good fertile farmland to turn it into a solar farm,” Fleming said. “Imagine acres and acres of glass just sitting on top of the ground.”

Fleming and other say they worry about the impact the solar farms will have on the environment and wildlife.

“These thousands of acres they’re going to be chained in with chained link fences. Can a deer or a rabbit or a fox pass through chain linked fences? No. So, this entire area that they’re going to consume is going to be inaccessible to wildlife,” said Fleming.

Judge Young said there are about 4 other solar companies being considered for tax abatements in Milam County. He said the Ben Milam Solar farm will contribute tax revenue to Buckholts, Rosebud-Lott and Cameron ISDs. All three school districts have approved a tax abatement for the farm.

Young says he believes the construction of the solar farm will bring construction jobs to the area to set up the farm. Although there is no requirement that the solar company hire local residents instead of bringing in their own workers, Young says he is anticipating the former.

“We’re actually going to be training folks to take some of the construction jobs that this will provide because they’ll need a lot of electricians and things,” Young said.

In Falls County as well construction has begun on The 639 MW Roseland solar project by the Enel Green Power company. The company says the plant will will generate 350 construction jobs, 18 permanent local jobs and a lifetime total of $52 million in landowner payments and over $59 million in tax revenue.

For the Big Elm Solar farm in Bell County, the company is still waiting on a decision by Troy ISD to approve a tax abatement. Fleming and others have been demonstrating and even speaking out at Troy ISD school board meetings against the abatement.

Currently there is a bill in the Texas State Legislature filed by Rep. Cason, R-Bedford that seeks to disallow school districts from being able to provide tax abatements. The bill would repeal the tax abatement chapter--chapter 313-- in the sate code.

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