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More than 50 concerned citizens turned out for the Sheridan County Commission meeting at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds to discuss the proposed solar facility Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about solar energy, and for good reason. It’s our future and one we must embrace if we are to move on gracefully and intelligently from our reliance on fossil fuels — in particular coal. Just this morning I heard another coal mine in the Powder River Basin will cease supplying coal for electrical power generation.

When I heard that a 20-megawatt solar farm proposed in Sheridan County had been approved by the Planning Commission, I went to show my support before the county commissioners. 

What I found at the public hearing was some visibly upset landowners and a few lawyers attacking the project for reasons ranging from lighting, erosion, water rights and road closures, to view shed, lost property values and “solar glare.” I regularly drive by the proposed site and have noted only one dwelling that would likely be affected, during the development phase, by construction traffic. 

Proponents of the 96-acre project tried to assure attendees that their concerns would be addressed in the permit, but the commissioners, rightly, I believe, tabled the proposal in order to engage in fact-finding of their own.  

Meanwhile, rumor has it that Ramaco wants to host the project on their Tongue River property, which would explain why some of their key players were present at the hearing — including the lawyer who represented Ramaco in their re-zone from agricultural to industrial awhile back. Interestingly, he didn’t seem too attentive to Tongue River landowners’ concerns back then, even though their concerns were stunningly similar to those he presented at the county commissioners’ hearing on behalf of landowners and irrigators in the Little Goose valley. Perhaps the commissioners should revisit the record of that hearing.

Siting is critical for this type of project, and the only location large enough to accommodate 90,000 solar arrays on Ramaco land is between the interstate and Kleenburn Pond. The panels would have to be oriented to the south and they would probably reflect light directly into the eyes of northbound drivers for part of the day, particularly in the winter. Now that is solar glare. 

The overarching goal of Sheridan Solar LLC is to diversify our energy production and provide clean, affordable electricity to the Sheridan community, an honorable goal that they have worked hard for and that deserves our consideration.

Gillian Malone

Big Horn

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