It is notable that, in his dismissive attack on my support for the Morgnec Road Solar project, Dr. Lewis elected not to disclose either his role as co-founder of Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance (KCPA) whose stated mission is perpetual preservation of 100% of existing Kent County farmland regardless of property owners’ rights and needs and the economic, environmental, or social merits of alternative land use proposals; or the fact that the gated entrance to his 322-acre waterfront estate happens to be down the road from the proposed solar project location. Might there be an overarching self-interest component to Dr. Lewis’ objection to this project?
Since its 2015 inception, KCPA has adamantly opposed virtually all alternative land use proposals, employing increasingly questionable tactics such as basing arguments on outdated irrelevant information and unsubstantiated “facts”; often making apples to oranges comparisons; demonizing development advocates; unconscionably twisting and misrepresenting opposing views; and regularly issuing “chicken little” predictions of pending doom in their dogged effort to achieve their goal. When presented with irrefutable data and market statistics that challenge or disprove their arguments, KCPA’s response routinely devolves into sardonic personal attacks intended to intimidate and quash differences of opinion. This strategy is in full view in Dr, Lewis’s 9/27 letter to the Spy castigating my endorsement of the Morgnec Road Solar proposal.
For readers who don’t know who or what to believe in this debate, additional information on what is known for fact relative to the proposed project is as follows:
- Since 2010, Kent County has lost between 1000 and 1500 residents to relocation and death. Given our aging population and historical opposition to development, population diminution is likely to continue. If so, by the time Chestertown is pressured to expand town limits down Morgnec Road – if ever- most principals in this debate will be dead and gone. Chestertown’s opposition to project approval and corresponding effort to hold property outside of town limits hostage to the dubious possibility of future town expansion needs – prospectively for decades– is simply wrong and unconscionable.
- If you drive out Morgnec Road to the proposed solar farm location, you’ll pass a huge Delmarva electric transmission station, Bramble Construction, Delmarva Casting Works, Atlantic Tractor, Choptank Electric and Kent County Public Works in the mile long stretch fronting the Clark family property. All these enterprises occupy multi-acre, largely blacktopped lots housing heavy equipment, industrial products, and Public Works supply storage. From an environmental, ecological, and Smart Growth perspective, clustering a beneficial solar power farm sited on pollinator friendly meadow land with existing industrial enterprises makes infinitely more sense than siting a costly large-scale housing development there.
- Dr. Lewis’ claim that Morgnec Road is “the principal “gateway to Chestertown could not be more wrong. For most county residents and visitors, that route is undeniably Route 213. This is not a “principal gateway” issue.
- Dr. Lewis’s claim that solar energy does not deliver consumer cost savings ignores and contradicts current solar energy cost data compiled by numerous energy use oversight experts and organizations including Bloomberg New Energy Finance Climatescope that in 2014 reported that “renewable energy is just as affordable an option as fossil fuel in 55 emerging nations across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean “; Lazard’s 2019 Levelized cost of Energy Report that found that “utility scale solar PV is at cost parity with fossil fuel” and, most recently, the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook (WEO)2020 report that concluded that “Solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest… electricity in history” with the [solar] technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries.” The WOE also reported a 20-50% reduction in the cost of solar energy power reduction from 2019 to 2020, spurring a global surge in solar power generation development. Dr. Lewis might find it enlightening to survey the tens of thousands of US families and companies who have significantly reduced, if not eliminated, electric service costs by installing solar power systems in their homes and offices.
- The information Dr. Lewis cites to support his vehement damnation of solar power as an alternative energy source and apparent preference for fossil fuel-based energy is woefully outdated and doesn’t square with growing demand for and investment in solar energy in the US and around the world. His claim that fossil fuel-based energy is less expensive and more dependable than renewable solar energy, ignores the fact that, unlike fossil fuels, the fuel component of solar power is free. He also overlooks huge continuing consumer tax-financed subsidies paid to fossil fuel producers and the regular disruptions in fossil fuel supply caused by frequent oil embargos and climate-change based natural disasters. Frankly, I find the sun more reliable. Innovations in battery-based solar power storage are projected to fully address service dependability questions given that solar power production does, indeed, cease when the sun goes down at night.
- The Morgnec Road solar power facility will supplement, not replace, fossil fuel powered energy supporting our regional electric power grid. Dr. Lewis’ harum-scarum scenario of required costly back up power generation systems does not apply here. In fact, locally sourced solar power will, conversely, back up the grid’s fossil fuel-based power, improving its service delivery reliability.
For the record, I don’t’ stand to again anything from project approval other than prospectively lower electric bills and improved peace of mind about electric outage avoidance. I could go on addressing misinformation in Dr. Lewis’s letter, but the bottom line is that the MD Public Service Commission will be deciding this issue if the Commissioners don’t soon change their position on it. Spy readers who agree that the proposed project should be approved and that spending $15K to $20K of limited county resources to continue to oppose it is a waste of time and money are urged to let both our Commissioners and the Public Service Commission know your position.