By Esther Fultz
Renewable energy has been a hot topic in recent years. Specifically relevant to small, rural towns like Cedarville, Ohio is the move toward solar energy. Since 2016, multiple solar companies have been requesting to lease land from local farm owners for the purpose of establishing solar farms. This request has been met with a great deal of controversy.
Cedarville farmer Joe Krajicek opposes the solar project and declined an offer to lease 50 acres of land to one of these companies.
“It’s not that I’m against solar,” Krajicek explained. “In the right place for the right reasons, it’s perfect. I’m just looking for a more responsible solar.”
Krajicek and an association of like-minded farmers called Citizens for Greene Acres has been researching solar for several years now. Concerns found by the group include water runoff issues, contaminated wells, and chemicals used in the panels.
According to Krajicek’s research, solar panels are not as environmentally friendly as they are often presented. The process of making them is largely driven by fossil fuels.
“What’s driving most of the renewable energy industry right now is actually the tax credits and subsidies from the state and federal government,” Krajicek said. “It’s about green dollars, not green energy.”
Dr. Bob Paris, Cedarville farmer and associate professor of Biology at Cedarville University, shares many of Krajicek’s concerns.
“We’re not going to see any benefit here from this energy being produced,” Paris said. “If it cut everybody’s electric bill by 10% that would be different.”
Krajicek and Paris both expressed concerns about the reliability of the companies involved in the solar project.
“We’re pushing ahead with something that has had a pretty bleak track record,” Paris explained. “A lot of these places go out of business and then there’s no real way for the landowners to get their money. They might potentially have to clean it out, which would cost quite a bit.”
In addition to environmental and financial concerns, going through with the solar project would drastically change the day to day life of many Cedarville residents. Even if just some farmers decide to lease land to the company, everyone is affected.
“People who move here for the school system or to teach at the university often end up deciding to stay here after retirement,” Krajicek said. “They’re building their forever home, and now all of a sudden, they change the zoning laws and an industrial solar facility is allowed to come in and be neighbors with them.”
For Cedarville farmers, the farmland that would be destroyed due to this project is more than just farmland, it’s part of who they are.
“It’s difficult to explain to people, but the connection a farmer has with his land is a really powerful thing,” Paris explained. “Most farmers consider themselves stewards of the land. When the farm has been in the family for five generations, it’s not just a matter of looking at the bank account and saying, let’s do this.”
For Krajicek, opposing the project is about being a good neighbor.
“You have to think about how it’s going to affect the community, if I would want someone to do that to me,” said Krajicek. “There are lots of other places that they could tuck the panels away, places where it doesn’t adjoin someone’s property and ruin their view.”
Paris also emphasized the significance of relationships in this debate and expressed concern over the controversy’s potential to sever relationships between Cedarville residents.
“It’s a tough thing for the community to go through,” Paris said. “A lot of friendships have already been severed, and regardless of what ends up happening, I don’t know how easily that’s going to be repaired.”
Esther Fultz is a sophomore Social Work major and an Off-Campus and On-Campus writer for Cedars. She enjoys writing songs, spending time outdoors, drinking coffee, and hanging with friends.