Group explains opposition to solar farm in Brown County

A bad deal for Brown County

Special to the Bulletin

TLOW (Texas Landowners Opposing Wind) was initially formed in response to wind farms. TLOW submitted this article stating its opposition to a potential tax abatement for a solar farm in Brown County.

As we begin 2021, a monumental decision will be made on the future of Brown County. The Brown County Commissioners will vote on a proposal that affects all county residents and taxpayers. Intersect Power, a California-based solar-power development company, requested an 85 percent property tax abatement over 10 years to build approximately a 2,600-acre solar farm in southwest Brown County.

Others are reading:Radian Solar Energy Project seeks Brown County tax abatement

As this is a decision that would forever change Brown County, our quality of life, and increase the likelihood for an influx of additional wind and solar projects, we ask that you consider the following reasons as to why Brown County should say no to this property tax abatement. The commissioners have asked for public input, so we urge you to write, call or email your commissioner to let them know how you feel about this issue.

A property tax abatement is an economic development tool that allows local communities to provide tax breaks that would stimulate their local economies. Tax abatements do this by incenting existing businesses and new businesses to bring jobs and economic growth to the community. These new permanent employees would then buy houses, cars, shop in local stores, and in other ways, spur economic growth. This would create a benefit to the local economy and its residents through having a long-term positive impact to the community that exceeds the cost of the abatement. In the case of the Radian Solar Project, they have committed to only two permanent jobs. In exchange, they have requested Brown County provide a property tax abatement of 85%, equal to an initial estimated $176M reduction in taxable value. So, any tax benefits are but a fraction of the rate that Brown County would charge most other local Brown County business, few of whom now receive abatements. Radian Solar’s sales pitch attempts to obscure the lack of permanent jobs by pointing to a large number of temporary jobs, most of which would be with non-local construction companies who are experienced in solar construction. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

While Radian would like you to only consider their project, one key risk to Brown County residents and landowners is the additional projects that would come to Brown once our county opens the door with tax abatements for renewable companies. There is already a second project application that the Brookesmith ISD has submitted and which we expect to approach Brown County for a property tax abatement similar to Radian. This second project, Mustang Mountain Solar, will be approximately 3,000 acres, per public documents, and will be in very close proximity or possibly adjoining the Radian Solar Project. Together, these two projects would consist of approximately 6,000 acres and approximately 2 million solar panels. We can expect more projects as landowners from many areas of Brown County are reporting inquiries from wind and solar companies. If Brown County passes a Property tax abatement for Radian Solar, it can be expected that there will be an influx of wind and solar companies to Brown County. Is that what the citizens of Brown County want?

In addition, the negative impacts on the land are long lasting. These solar project areas will be clear cut of all native trees and other vegetation. For the following 35 to 50 years, this area will be maintained to minimize growth of vegetation. Native habitat will be destroyed for deer, turkey, dove, quail, and all other forms of native wildlife and will force the wildlife off this land, thus increasing competition in surrounding areas for already scarce life sustaining resources. This happened in California, where a solar farm resulted in catastrophe for an already threatened desert tortoise population. The winged population is also known to be negatively impacted by solar farms and as we know, Brown County is a flyway for many species. Finally, local water use would also be significant, impacting already scarce water resources.

Let us not forget that there will be innocent landowners who will be harmed. While there are approximately 13 landowners that would benefit financially, there is approximately more than 50 nearby landowners that would be negatively impacted. Some landowners who stand to benefit have stated “it’s our land and we have the right to do with it as we see fit”. While that is true, the Texas Supreme Court has held that the Texas Constitution “protects each individual’s right to use and develop his or her property in any way that doesn’t cause a nuisance or harm the neighbors.” It is believed these projects do cause harm by loss of property values, marketability, and enjoyment and are therefore certainly a nuisance.

Intersect Power admitted that this project would not be viable without the county tax abatement. If this corporation is unwilling to pay this relatively small tax burden (county property taxes are a significantly smaller amount compared to the federal tax impact), we must assume this project is not financially sound nor stable. These massive wind and solar corporations should not place the burden on our taxpayers to make their projects profitable, competitive or viable.

In closing, Brown County has experienced exceptional demand from people looking to purchase rural land and has benefited from increased property values, home construction, as well as new residents and landowners injecting money into our local businesses. This directly creates a long-term benefit for Brown County stores, restaurants, fence builders, welders, electricians, as well as other trades and businesses. We are seeing this today with the new stores and revitalization of downtown Brownwood. Enabling renewable energy projects to come into our area by providing tax abatements will certainly change this trend and possibly reverse it. We have the chance, right now, to preserve this area and to keep it one of the desirable areas of our state, in other words keeping it feeling like home, by simply not giving away our tax dollars.

Again, we urge you to tell your county commissioner to vote NO on solar property tax abatements.

TLOW is a local grassroots group of over 400 residents, landowners, business owners and officials, many of whom have been in this area for generations. For more information or to get involved, please visit TLOW.org. TLOW.