Letter: Do your analysis on photo voltaic panels | Letters to the Editor

They have printed articles on the county planning and zoning, as well as the county commissioner meetings regarding the proposed solar project, which is west of the intersection of Swaim and Upper Streets.

I would like to address an issue that is cause for concern. I have a feeling that your readers may not get the full story from the sessions that were covered.

I attended every meeting I knew. And I did research on solar energy on my own. That being said, I don’t present myself as an expert. I am just a very concerned resident of this county that has been home to my family for generations.

As I have seen at these meetings, when people like me are allowed to ask questions often, the answer is that the “problem” will be “addressed when necessary.” I find that unacceptable.

One point that comes to mind is that this area is defined as a critical groundwater area by the county’s own plan. This is a problem which I believe has not been properly addressed. The geological composition of this area from the proposed location to the alluvial land of Little Goose Creek consists mainly of glaciers and sand. Just ask anyone who is building a fence in this area. Digging hard, but water flows easily. The groundwater below the surface can be up to 30 cm below the topsoil. One would assume that the contamination of this water follows the natural course of the water and covers a considerable area that includes many apartment buildings that have wells for their main source for human and animal consumption.

The Colorado Colony Ditch complies with this proposed project. So it could also be a major source of contaminated water, as well as any “side ditches” that bring livestock and irrigation water throughout the region.

This topic was skimmed over by the developer with the title “Be addressed if necessary”. For me, this is not good enough, and here is why.

If you go on the internet, and I sincerely hope many of you reading this do, there is considerable information on the chemical makeup of solar panels. Many of these chemicals are toxic. Some of them are even highly explosive. Toxic chemicals in solar panels include: cadmium (highly toxic), silicon and silica (highly explosive and toxic), hydrochloric acid, zinc, silicon tetrachloride (highly toxic), cadmium telluride, copper indium, selenide, hexafluoroethane, polyvinyl fluoride and everyone’s favorite – lead. Just to name a few.

A counter-argument for this would be that the only significant risk of volatile and potentially toxic chemicals becoming a factor is in the industrial manufacture of the solar modules and the actual deterioration of discarded modules after their 25 years of use and in a reception center. When I continued my studies I found out differently.

A recent study by the National Institute for Standards and Technology has steered me in the right direction. Failures of solar panels can occur in as little as 3-6 years. The failures are caused by UV rays, gusts of wind and heavy rain. The study shows that solar panels wear away from the moment they are installed. The article was dated March 1, 2020 – about as current as I could find it.

I wonder what measures are being taken to contain possible underground groundwater pollution. Will the developer line the entire solar module area (110 acres based on the latest findings from the independent fact checker) with a suitable liner to prevent contamination? That answer would be no.

I wonder what recourse the residents of this affected area would have on the contractor and Sheridan County if the commissioners pushed this project forward if their wells and trenches were contaminated. Perhaps it is a win / win scenario, as then the residents, who are now on a perfectly good well, would have to connect to the SAWS water lines.

Not one person I have been able to speak to about this project has said that they are against solar energy when it is properly developed. We feel that there are too many variables that are either not addressed before starting the project or that are left out altogether.

The real irony of this whole “green energy” venture in our own backyard is that many of us who have attended these meetings have asked the district officers to consult, advise, inspect, and trust the Industrial Siting Council . The answer I got was that it wasn’t big enough to include them. However, if you read the July 2020 Amendment to the Master Plan, there is a certain direction that will allow district chairs to seek involvement from the Industrial Siting Council should concerns and questions arise about any project of any size. Maybe the district planner can handle it? But when I asked him in a meeting if he had ever been involved in a project of this size, he had nothing to say.

Afterwards we could perhaps simply rename the Colorado Colony Ditch “Love Canal II”.

Well, quite lengthy I guess, but it had to be said. Please do your research and get involved.

Editor’s note: The normal press word limit has been waived for this letter.

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