It is about the quality of life
Years ago, Orion Renewable Energy Group from California had approached local farmers and offered substantial amounts of money to lease their fields to install 100,000 solar panels, covering 1,800 plus acres. The residents of Flat Rock were notified on May 24, 2019, via a letter from Orion, inviting us to an open house on June 6 to discuss the solar energy project. This is the first many of the residents heard about this project.
On July 22, the zoning/planning commission approved an ordinance to approve the industrial solar project, despite public comments. However, the approved ordinance could not legally ‘stand alone’, and needed to have amendments approved by the township board.
On Aug. 12, the amendments were presented to the township board. A large number of Flat Rock residents attended this meeting. The township board stated they felt ‘ill-prepared’ to vote on the amendments to the ordinance and felt the amendments were ‘pushed through too quickly’. The vote was proposed and did not get seconded. Linda Trombley-Robitaille, Escanaba Township Board, pointed out how “presumptuous” it was of UPPCO (a foreign owned company) entering into an agreement to purchase power from Orion Renewable Energy Group before the zoning and township approvals have been accepted.
There is a meeting of the planning commission on Sept. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Escanaba Township Hall. There will also be a joint meeting of the zoning/planning commission and the Escanaba Township Board on Sept. 16 at 7:30, at the same location, to discuss the solar farm ordinance. Please try to attend these meetings.
If the solar project is approved, some homeowners will have industrial solar panels surrounding their entire houses/property. There are major concerns of contamination, glare, bird and wildlife impact (the animals will be forced to follow the chain link fencing next to the road as their natural trails), and the noise from the ‘hum’ of the project. There are several houses for sale right now in the Flat Rock area due to the potential installation of the thousands of solar panels. My fear is that this area will become a barren, industrial wasteland in which no one will opt to live in now or in the coming years.
In closing, I must say I have complete empathy for the farmer’s blight as they struggle to make a living with plunging prices of livestock and crops. Some of these farmers are my friends. I just feel there has to be other alternatives to the land use other than a large scale industrial solar farm that will devastate and negatively impact this area for 25 plus years.
This issue is not NIMBYism. It is about the quality of life for our residents and future generations. There are many people who share my view and I believe I speak for the majority of residents in the Flat Rock area.
Friends of Flat Rock