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To the Editor:

My compliments to the League of Women Voters for organizing the June 6 forum on utility-scale solar and agriculture, to the Daily Record for the June 9 article about the forum and for the related June 12 editorial.

Unfortunately, two of the forum speakers made a blanket statement that appears questionable, and that same statement was a key part of the editorial. They said that it would be impossible to restore land to ag purposes, if and when a solar installation were decommissioned. I would like to see evidence of this statement, beyond mention of “discussions with soil scientists.”

Before the forum, I heard some people express worries about removal of all vegetation and land sterilization. This may have happened in the early days of solar, but certainly is not normal now. The argument made by the two forum speakers involved “bringing in gravel and compacting soil.” According to documents submitted to EFSEC, of the 232 acres to be used, only six acres of impervious surfaces would be created on currently active agricultural land. Overall, the TUUSSO proposal says “Civil infrastructure includes limited access roads, perimeter fencing, and grasses throughout the site.” In fact, they plan on being good land stewards by using native, rather than non-native, vegetation.

If the two speakers’ statement is true, this would be a shocking revelation worthy of front page news. The TUUSSO proposal states “After the projects’ useful life, the projects can be rapidly decommissioned, sites restored, and the land returned to agriculture. This decommissioning promise is secured by a plan and accompanying bond.” This is typical of other proposals nationwide, for solar installations on existing ag land. Of course, after many years of no tillage, some compacting will occur naturally, but this can be mitigated in the restoration plan, especially if the topsoil is stored for eventual replacement. For instance, a proposed site in Calexico, California, includes extensive detail, with an estimated cost of about $3,500 per acre.

The issue may be moot. The price of solar continues to decrease rapidly, even as its efficiency increases, trends that are expected to continue. When solar installations reach their expected lifetimes (20-30 plus years), does anyone really think that we will be needing less power than we currently do? It seems most likely that panels would be replaced with new ones that are even more efficient than the current ones.

Barry Brunson

Cle Elum

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