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Solar panels in Bandera?

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What pictures come to mind when you think of Bandera, Texas?

Cowboy hats most likely.

Horses? Sure.

Small town charm? Most definitely.

Acres of green hills? Picture perfect.

Now take those idyllic images, the ones that make you smile. The ones that say “small town America is my Texas town” and replace it with 970,000 solar panels covering 1,953 acres. Let me say that another way: NINE HUNDRED SEVENTY THOUSAND solar panels.

I don’t know about you, but that does not say “Welcome to the Cowboy Capital of the World” to me. It says “What in the world was the Bandera Independent School Board headed by Interim Superintendent Gary Bitzkie thinking?!” Also “What an eyesore.” And “Nope.”

The idea of an outside the state of Texas company, owned by an even larger outside the country of America company, creating such a boondoggle with potentially the blessing of the Bandera ISD Board, which last I checked was a taxing entity, does not sit well with me. But I am just one gal’s opinion

Everyone wants cheap, renewable, environmentally friendly energy and Bandera citizens are no different in that. However, welcoming Pine Gates Renewables LLC and Montague Solar LLC to erode our beautiful landscape, harm the environment, pay less in taxes, create a whopping one new job and give us no reduction in our electric bills does not seem like a winning proposition.

The current proposal submitted in October of this year, offers Bandera citizens the opportunity to potentially produce energy (it is purported to be a 120 MW solar farm), but Bandera Electric Company (BEC) will have to purchase it at the going rate. The current agreement offers no discount so our monthly bill will reflect no savings.

The savings will come to Pine Gates, however, in the form of abatements and payment directly to the BAISD Board as opposed to a standard school tax like businesses and residents pay. Because the company will not pay property school taxes, but instead payments go directly to the Board, the county will not reap the full monetary benefit, and Pine Gates will pay much less over the proposed 10 year contract period. This will also ensure the Board has thousands of non-designated funds to distribute.

Though Pine Gates touts the positive economic impact on an area, in this case, Bandera is not getting a benefit of more jobs. In order to get an abatement, Pine Gates would normally have to guarantee, among other things, 10 permanent jobs in the county. This number is based on the Solar Industries Energy Association (SEIA) recommendation for a solar farm the size they are projecting. However, they have requested a waiver to creating ten new jobs and instead are proposing the addition of one.

To add to this egregious proposal, solar panels, though big on producing “clean energy”, are not, in fact, totally green. Environmental studies abound that reflect the harm to water as rainwater washes toxins like lead, Silicon tetrachloride and other toxins into the ground from chipped or broken panels. The sheer volume of the panels will also directly impact wildlife in the area as well as raise the heat level surrounding the 1,900 plus acres. Finally, there are currently no facilities in the United States that can recycle the amount of waste generated by such a large solar scape. And recycling the panels themselves is also not feasible. This means landfills will be their final resting place leaking toxins into the earth.

All in all, the proposed green energy solar panel money making scheme does not appear to be all sunshine. This one gal will continue to explore more concerning the proposal, but as citizens you do not need to wait solely on my next column and further investigation. At the last school board meeting held December 13th, Interim Superintendent Bitzkie did not take questions concerning this proposal siting Rogers Rules of Order as it was not on the meeting agenda. But be not dismayed Bandera reader, Bitzkie did say he would gladly sit down with anyone who was concerned about the solar panel landscape creating a blight in our town. So get out your calendar and give the man a call. The Board will also put it on the agenda for the January meeting ahead of the February vote on the measure. That gives all of us a chance to let the light fully shine on this proposal.

And that, is one gal’s opinion….

Becky Lay is the Chairman of the Bandera County Republican Party Election Integrity Committee.