Letter: Solar farms good for the county

Brownwood Bulletin
Opinion submission

I have followed with great interest the current debate in Brown county over the development of Solar farms in the county. My wife’s family has ranched in the county for over 100 years and we are current taxpayers. I have no current economic interests or land that would be developed for solar farms and my purpose in writing to you concerning this issue is my experience of the advantages that these solar projects have brought to my hometown of Paris in Lamar County, Texas.

We currently have four solar facilities in construction and two more in the planning stages. The combined total investment of the current four farms will top almost two billion dollars and the five-year construction period will add about 500 jobs to the area at an average yearly wage of $45,000. The royalties are substantial, and the impact of those dollars will have a sizable multiplier effect on local businesses. The school districts will receive additional funding, even after a 10-year abatement, of well over $1.8 million to $3 million per annum assuming all six facilities are built. When one considers that all of this land is currently under an agricultural exemption, the windfall of turning exempted property into a huge multiple of dollars is worth considering.

Lamar County proactively pursued these solar developments as new sources of revenue. I have spoken with the current executive director of the Paris Economic Development Foundation, Mrs. Maureen Hammond, and she is more than willing to answer any questions that you have regarding how the tax abatements and property leases were handled in each of the current farms.

I would also be happy to contact my personal friend the Hon Brandon Bell, County Judge Lamar County, and perhaps arrange a telephone call. He has been intimately involved in the negotiations with these various solar companies and would be a wealth of information I am sure.

I hope that you will consider approving solar for Brown County. These kinds of dollars are extremely hard to come by in the present economic times and the school districts and taxpayers are struggling to find a balance between school tax rates and economic development throughout the state. Solar farms relieve much of the tax pressure from taxpayers and provide much needed funds to promote better education in rural areas.

— David A. Carpenter, Paris, Texas