By Anton Riecher and Kayleen Holder
Opposition to a rumored solar panel farm being planned in Moore brought a capacity crowd together Thursday evening (Aug. 25) at the local community center.
Ray Freitas, manager of the Moore Water Supply Corporation, told the audience that a neighbor on Black Creek Road/CR 1660 had confirmed leasing acreage for a solar farm, sometimes referred to as a photovoltaic power station, using a large array of solar panels to convert sunlight into electrical energy.
In an interview afterward, Freitas expressed the concern that “one of the properties leased is part of the Black Creek system and could possibly contaminate the watershed.”
A landowner in the area, Darla Bacon, explained that in all, the solar farm project could span close to 600 acres.
“Solar farms form what’s called a thermal heat island effect, which increases temperature. I am surrounded on three sides so I will be right in the middle of that. It can increase temperature by 5 to 7 degrees,” Bacon said. “I am going to lose my dove hunting operation, and I am probably going to lose my cattle operation too. I have talked to a man in Deport,Tx who lives near a solar farm like this, and he said the humming sound that it makes is another thing that has driven people nuts. Replacing land with photovoltaic panels will likely increase runoff volume and reduce recharge for our water tables.”
Local bee keeper David Park also lives near the proposed solar projects.
“The biggest thing I am worried about is how it will de-value my property. We live in a house on a hill and can see for miles. We have lived here for 17 years. Who wants to look down on 500 acres of solar panels?”
Like most residents, Graves Wallace, had more questions rather than answers.
“Well, it’s certainly not something that you would expect to happen right next door to you. I did not see it coming. How will it affect the value of my property? What are the effects to our environment? And what are my rights? I truly don’t know. Those are questions I haven’t been able to find a positive answer to. One thing is for sure, time will tell us.”
When it comes to progress, Wallace said, “Electricity is great. Technology is great. But that old hand-crank ice cream maker–it always works.”
Moore VFD Fire Chief JD Earls has his own concerns on the firefighting side.
“Equipment, extinguishing agents, training, costs…..What is needed and how do we obtain it? Where do we get specialized training we’ll need?” Chief JD Earls said. “You cannot put water on electricity.”
At the meeting….
A pamphlet presented at the meeting titled “Drawbacks of Living Near a Solar Farm” set down a litany of possible issues with solar farms ranging from health concerns about electromagnetic waves, increased risk of fire from the radiated heat and the potential that harmful chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic, silicon, copper and lead could contaminate the environment. The concern is that damaged units may release contaminants into the environment.
Frio County Precinct 2 Commissioner Richard Graf presided over the meeting. Also on hand to field questions were Frio County Attorney Joseph Sindon and incoming precinct 2 commissioner Mario Martinez who takes office in November.
Graf told those attending that his office received nearly a dozen calls last week concerned about the rumored solar farm project.
“I’d really like to say that as of this date (the county) still has not been formally asked or told that a solar company is coming in,” Graf said. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt at all that they are coming in.”
However, unless the company applies for tax abatement, it is under no obligation to inform the county of its plans. Graf said he brought the rumored project before the Frio County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting on Aug. 24.
“Based on all the information I’ve got it will be my pleasure to recommend to the court that we do not give them one,” Graf said.
He said the commissioners were “very attentive to what I had to say and were anxious for this meeting to happen so that I could get back with them.”
Graf and Sindon both stressed that the county has no regulatory authority to restrict industrial development.
“We all like living in Texas because we don’t want a lot of regulation,” Sindon said. “The government lets us do what we want.”
People are largely allowed to do what they want “unless it upsets the neighbors,” Sindon said. He noted that the commissioners approved tax abatement for a solar panel farm located on a large ranch with no immediate neighbors to the project (in the Pearsall area).
“Nobody complained,” Sindon said.
Martinez said he was in agreement with Graf in opposing the project.
“For the most part I’m with everyone here,” Martinez said. “I’m not saying we’re going to please everyone 100 percent but we want to look out for your wellbeing.”
Here is the link to the Moore Community Center meeting about the solar farm: https://youtu.be/qQs6pLCOX9g
Please note, there was some confusion at the meeting about how much acreage the Moore solar farm would include, but has since been settled and is reflected in this article as of information we received Tuesday.
The company which has leased land in Moore is based out of Chicago, a landowner said, and is not the same company that received tax incentives in the Pearsall area solar farms that are expected to become operational in 2023.
By Anton Riecher and Kayleen Holder