This paper recently reported that Andrew Miller, executive director of the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau, and Stacy Richards, Union County commissioner, expressed concerns about the impact of utility-scale solar farms on tourism to the Valley. Richards was quoted as saying that solar farms will disrupt farmland and are a massive hit on tourism.
I would argue these claims miss the point. In order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, already affecting farms and tourist attractions in the Valley, we must transition to renewable energy sources like solar and wind immediately. The solar industry is growing rapidly in Pennsylvania and, with some planning, can be viewed as an opportunity rather than a threat.
While I agree it is important to preserve the agricultural farmland that sustains our local economy, I would ask local leaders to consider what we can do to incentivize these solar businesses to site their projects on brownfields, parking lots, or farm buildings. Research shows tourists are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of vacations, and planned investment in renewable energy can be a tourism draw.
Utility-scale solar farms can be planted with compatible farm crops or shared with sheep to preserve farm production.
Solar is coming, whether some like the view or not; let’s work together to plan what it will look like in our county.