Ms. Paula Reeder’s letter, published 9/29/21 in the Spy in rebuttal to my letter of 9/27/21, requires a response because it contains misrepresentations and unsupported allegations that I feel have to be corrected, as well as a vitriolic attack on the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance (KCPA), a 501(c)(3) organization which my wife and I founded to help preserve the remarkable environment and amenities of Kent County which make so many people want to come here. KCPA has an 8-member board composed of Kent County residents, about half of whom were born here, and the rest have lived here for 20 years plus. All serve as volunteers and no one is paid either salary or expenses for their time and service.
In the interests of brevity and focus, I think it’s best to address each of the points of her letter specifically.
Ms. Reeder feels I was deceptive in not disclosing that I was a co-founder and current member of the board of KCPA, though it’s unclear why. The letter of 9/27 was from me, not KCPA, and it was not reviewed or vetted by any of the other members of the board. I’m proud of what KCPA has been able to do in the last five years, and certainly have no reason to deny my role there, but KCPA has no relationship to the generation of the letter or the points stated there.
According to Ms. Reeder the “stated mission” of KCPA 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”. This statement is a total fabrication by Ms. Reeder which has no factual basis. KCPA has no bylaws, policy, charter, or other document which remotely resembles this, and has never done so. Our purpose in this controversy is to support and preserve the intactness of the zoning of Kent County as stated in the Land Use Ordinance currently in effect, which does not allow solar installations on Morgnec Road. That policy has been and continues to be fully supported by the Commissioners of Kent County as well as the Mayor and Town Council of Chestertown, both of whom voted unanimously in the last two months to oppose the Morgnec Road Solar installation. Ms. Reeder’s position is totally opposite to the expressed wishes of the governance bodies of both the city and the county.
Ms. Reeder also alleges that I have a “322 acre waterfront estate” and that I oppose the project because of self-interest in regard to my farm. It’s true that my wife and I own a 322 acre working organic farm which we personally manage but we live in a 2200 sq ft home and have a garage and a couple of pole barns for farm equipment, so it would be a stretch to call it an estate. In addition, it’s about 10 miles from our farm to the edge of Chestertown, where the proposed project is located, so there is no way in which the project would affect us, or generate bias based on self-interest.
Ms. Reeder makes a number of allegations about KCPA which have nothing to do with the debate in these letters about the placement of the Morgnec Road Solar project. All of her allegations are false. KCPA has never issued any public policy statements; we do not make any predictions; we have never engaged in debate with some external body over anything, etc. Lastly, we do not engage in “personal attacks”. The broad goals of KCPA are to support the 2018 Comprehensive Plan Vision for Kent County and are best expressed on page 1 of that document:
It is Kent County’s vision to preserve its historic and cultural traditions, along with its high quality of life, while embracing sufficient economic opportunities to provide for the economic well-being of our citizens. This Plan recognizes that agriculture is the keystone to Kent County’s heritage and its future. Agriculture is the linchpin that buttresses the County’s economy, culture, history, and everyday experiences. Kent County cannot afford to have this key element damaged or displaced. This recognition of agriculture’s status as the highest and best use for much of the County is an essential tenet of this Plan.
First bullet point
Ms. Reeder takes issue with the concept that Chestertown will ever expand enough to need the Clark farm property for additional space. The future is unknowable to all of us, but the movement of people from urban to rural environments since Covid and the purchase of property and building of new homes here in the last 18 months should make everyone consider that we might be seeing a sea change in the trends and numbers of people favoring rural living, and the potential effects on our population and need for space. Data supplied by private communication from John Carroll, Mayor of Galena, and Realtor in Kent County, shows that the average number of housing sales in Kent County in 2019, before Covid, was 28 per month. During all of 2020 and 9 months of 2021 the average is 38 per month, a 35% increase. While many are second homes, the influx of new people has clearly accelerated in the last 20 months.
It’s notable that the town, the county, and the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in 2007 commissioned a year long study by an external consulting firm to develop a detailed charette defining future uses for the Clark farm to be used as the blueprint for Chestertown expansion. That document, titled “Chestertown Greenbelt Master Plan” was a visionary effort and indicates clearly that plans for expansion of the town into the Clark Farm is not a new idea, nor a frivolous one. It can be accessed here:
Second bullet point
Ms. Reeder contends that because there are several local businesses located on the south side of Morgnec Road across from the Clark farm, that it’s logical to put a solar installation there. I am unable to understand the connection she suggests. There are one or two orders of magnitude difference in size between a local business located on a few acres and a 400 acre solar installation surrounded by a chain link fence, not to mention the completely different esthetics.
Third bullet point
The term “gateway” is not my designation. That is the term used in the Comprehensive Plan for Kent County to designate Route 213 from the north and the south, and Route 291 as the three gateways into Chestertown. Since there is no published data relative to the volume of tourist traffic which enters by each route, it’s not possible to know what the relative volumes are for each, and all should be considered important to maintain as attractive landscapes in order to encourage tourism.
The following is the wording of the 2018 Kent County Comprehensive Plan (p. 28):
The town gateways, where the transition occurs between the County’s agricultural areas and its traditional town centers, strongly influence local and visitor perceptions of the County creating what is likely to be a lasting first impression. The County will work with the towns to develop design guidelines that will insure safe and aesthetically pleasing entrances.
Fourth bullet point
Ms. Reeder cites a number of sources and references as to the competitive cost of solar power relative to fossil fuels and the fact that it is becoming cheaper. Such quotes are legion, and are based purely on the cost of generation of power without consideration as to its relative reliability and fraction of usage in the average day or week. If solar power were available at a stable rate 24/7/365 those statements might be true, but given that there is no solar power at night, little power in the winter, and little when there are clouds or rain, solar is available less than 40% of the time and is substantially less efficient (and less cost effective) that a power source which is online better than 90% of the time. If you lived in Arizona, where the sun shines 300+ days a year, solar probably makes sense. In Kent County it is much more problematic.
Because so many of these cost statistics are manipulated as propaganda to promote and sell solar, the only way to get real data on the cost of solar is to look at the cost of electricity to households in different states or countries, and to compare the cost of electricity where solar energy is heavily used, vs. those which rely on conventional or nuclear power generation. In that way, you get a true picture of what the real cost is, given all the variability and down time for wind and solar.
In the US, the principal state which has promoted solar is California, and their percentage of solar use is far larger than any other. For comparison, then, we need to compare California with its immediate neighbors – Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona. Fortunately, such data is readily available, and is current to September 2021:
This data shows that the following are the current household rates per kilowatt-hour:
Oregon – 11.01 cents
Nevada – 11.53 cents
Arizona – 11.70 cents
California – 21.43 cents
The average cost of electricity in the three states bordering California is 11.43 cents/kWh while in California it is 88% higher. So much for the “cheap” electricity which solar will provide!
Maryland is slightly higher than California’s neighbors at 12.61 cents/kWh, but still only a fraction of the California rates, and most states with conventional power are in the 9-14 cent range.
What about other countries? Perhaps we are an anomaly. The countries with the greatest penetration of renewable energy – both solar and wind – are Germany and Denmark. Other countries in the area use conventional fossil fuel generation, with the exception of France and Sweden, which have high fractions of nuclear. Let’s look at the comparisons there, which is also fortunately available:
All prices are quoted in cents per kWh.
Sweden – 16.4 cents
France – 21.3 cents
Netherlands – 18.6 cents
Poland – 19.0 cents
Denmark – 33.4 cents
Germany – 36.3 cents
The average of the Netherlands, Poland, and France, Germany’s neighbors, is 19.6 cents. By contrast Germany’s electricity cost is 85% higher, similar to the California numbers, and Denmark’s is only slightly lower. Germany has the highest cost of electricity among all the countries in the world. Again, where are the wonderful cost savings which renewable energy is going to bring us? It’s remarkable what you learn when you look at the data and not the hype. As I stated in my earlier letter – In every locale where renewable energy has been introduced as a major fraction of energy generation, costs to the consumer have risen dramatically.
Fifth bullet point
Ms. Reeder cites the continuing enthusiasm for building solar installations as evidence of its competitiveness. In reality the only reason solar is being built is because of the enormous direct and indirect subsidies and the generous tax breaks from accelerated depreciation, as well as the legislation passed in many states which requires the grid to purchase solar power preferentially to conventional power when both are available. If all sources of energy were treated equally, solar would rarely be used. Ms. Reeder cites subsidies for fossil fuel generation, but they are trivial compared to what is given to solar.
Building solar installations is extremely lucrative, which is why there are so many companies competing to do so. This occurs because many state legislatures have largely been persuaded by the solar lobby, which has enormous financial resources, and they have been convinced that solar and wind are the only way to combat global warming. As a result they have passed mandates requiring the preferential use of solar when it is available as well as allocating generous subsidies and tax breaks.
Ms. Reeder contends that there are “large disruptions” in the fossil fuel power supply caused by “frequent oil embargoes”. It isn’t clear what planet she is referring to, because I am unaware of fossil fuel plants which go offline because of lack of fuel, whereas solar plants suffer from that problem daily. She contends that solar is better because the fuel is free. This ignores the fact that fuel costs are a relatively small part of the cost of energy generation overall, compared to such other items as capital expenses. Because of this the efficiency of operation on a 24/7/365 basis has a very large effect on the ultimate energy cost.
As with her earlier letter, Ms. Reeder’s statements are not factually based nor supported by any data.
She has misrepresented the position of KCPA as well as my own views. While I think solar is a poor choice because of all the issues discussed here and in my earlier letter, I’m not opposed (nor is KCPA) to the installation of solar power in Kent County – we just think that current zoning should be respected, and solar installations should be located where the county has designated – in the area near Massey. There is ample space there, and that is near the main Delmarva power transmission line, so a tie-in would be relatively easy.
In addition to respecting and adhering to current zoning, we feel we should support the legitimate governments of the county and city, which presumably reflect the views of Kent County citizens. Both the Mayor and Town Council of Chestertown and the Commissioners of Kent County have recently voted unanimously to oppose the installation of Morgnec Road Solar on the Clark Farm, and to adhere to the existing zoning restrictions which are in place. These positions are based on extensive debate and discussion (in the case of the county, a yearlong series of discussions and negotiations with Urban Grid, the parent of Morgnec Road Solar). Their decision is therefore thoughtful, carefully considered, and in the best interests of county residents.
To take a position, as Ms. Reeder has done, that these legitimate governmental decisions should be overridden and that Morgnec Road Solar should be allowed to proceed is to abrogate the entire significance of what zoning is for in providing for the control of growth of all types in a given jurisdiction. If it were overridden in this case, then solar installations could be placed anywhere in the county without restriction.