Republican Senators Andrew Brock and Bill Cook have out done themselves. They’ve written a bill designed to kill the solar energy industry in North Carolina using big government regulations to take away property rights. Brock and Cook propose a mile-and-a-half setback for any solar field. That would make almost every project impossible, limiting how people use their property and killing jobs.
I’ve got a dog in this fight. My family owns property outside of Lilesville, NC. My grandfather and great-grandfather farmed it, growing cotton and then peaches. By the time I was growing up, the land was being dug up for rock by a company called Bonsal. After they finished mining all the rock, the land wasn’t good for much. The topsoil and nutrients were gone and anything that grew on it, grew slowly.
For years, we’ve tried to make enough money from it to pay the taxes and any upkeep. It’s been for sale for years with no takers. Not a lot of companies are looking to relocate to the outskirts of Lilesville these days.
Then, a year or so ago, a solar company approached us about putting in solar panels. They wanted thirty acres. In exchange, they would give us a nice lease and provide income that could support the land while providing a little money for the family. The panels were installed this winter and spring.
To get to the solar field, you leave the highway and drive a mile down a country road. Then, you turn onto a dirt road surrounded by a scrub pine forest. A half mile or so down that road, you come to the rows of solar panels. The only other way to see the field is from the air.
If Brock and Cook have their way, fields like this would be illegal. They would deny families like mine the ability to use their property to make money. They would deprive counties of revenue. And they would kill an industry that provides jobs and clean energy to North Carolina.
These Republicans aren’t conservative. They’re promoting big government regulations. They’re killing an emerging industry. And they are stepping on property rights. No, they’re authoritarians hell-bent on protecting a status quo that’s not working for too many Americans. They’re wrong for North Carolina and, in Andrew Brock’s case, they’re wrong for the United States Congress.