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COMMENTARY: Solar plant would exploit Culpeper for Dominion
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COMMENTARY: Solar plant would exploit Culpeper for Dominion

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Cedar Grove Road and Raccoon Ford Road

Near Maroon Solar’s power-plant site in Culpeper County, Cedar Grove Road looks toward Mount Pony. Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and his 25,000-man corps marched north here in June, 1863, enroute to Gettysburg, Pa.

I am writing to express grave concern about the Maroon Solar project proposed in Culpeper County.

I invested in a delightful little horse property in the shadow of Mount Pony years ago. It met everything I wanted after 27 years in the uniform of our country: Peace. Nice people. History, rich with the stories of the Rapidan Front in the great conflict between the states.

My family was here just before the Civil War. They landed in Alexandria in 1848, and helped build the Alexandria & Orange Railroad, which extended to Culpeper and Orange counties. So, our shovels have been in this soil for 170 years.

I do not oppose development or technology. I am looking at a solar array for my home’s roof, and accept the intermittent nature of the power it will provide.

I do oppose a project of this scale. It will overwhelm our little, rural roads with massive trucks in the construction phase; two trucks an hour, they say. It is a challenge just dealing with occasional autos, much less industrial traffic, on Raccoon Ford and Mount Pony roads, rural roads that weren’t built for it.

A North Carolina firm has applied to put 1,700 acres of solar glass in our neighborhood. Maroon will produce only a limited number of local jobs during its construction phase, then abandoned.

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The solar panels it will emplace on our pastures and pines are from China. They are constructed with rare earths, mined by children, and built by ethnic minorities in exploitive forced labor. The rare earths used will leach from the panels into the Culpeper soil and the Rapidan River.

Maroon’s sprawling installation has a life expectancy of only 35 years. At that point, whatever company remains will be responsible for removing what is left of the plant’s non-recyclable junk, duplicating the earlier influx of traffic, hauling burned-out solar panels to a landfill somewhere near. Or, the wreckage will remain on Culpeper’s fields.

The power produced by the 1,700-acre project? Naturally, it will be intermittent. That is the nature of the interaction of our sun and clouds and long winter nights. But the power won’t be for Culpeper. It will be shipped to Fairfax on Dominion’s power lines and feed the voracious appetite of the Northern Virginia suburbs. We will get nothing long-lasting from this plan.

Maroon would be five times the county’s agreed-upon 300-acre goal for a solar plant. It has twice been rejected by the Planning Commission. If it is approved by the supervisors, we will have to deal with a broad sweep of foreign glass and the destruction of historic vistas that Culpeper’s people have known for generations--with little benefit to those of us who live here.

This is not a “green” project. It is part of something we have seen elsewhere. The government showers taxpayer subsidies on the Green Machine. The practical consequence will be the exploitation of a peaceful, rural area for the benefit of a company rich with tax dollars, using technology built overseas and expected to last only a generation, that provides necessary but intermittent power for the sprawl of Washington, D.C.

We who live here support property rights, sensible development and efficient use of technology. Those are things that are necessary. The destruction of my historic neighborhood and its lovely vistas is not. We do not need the rumble of big trucks on tiny roads to greet the dawn, reverberating inexorably through the working day.

Please vote “NO” on this industrial project, which would forever alter the character of our rural and agricultural land.

J.R. Reddig, a retired Navy captain, lives near Winston in Culpeper County.

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