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April 11, 2021

4/2/2021 9:09:00 AM
Decentralize Solar & Wind

Dear Editor;
In 1974 I won first prize for my solar powered cooking oven at the annual eight grade science fair, and was awarded the amazing opportunity to go on a field trip to talk to some professors at the university of Chicago. They blew my mind with their work on a solar collector based on God's design of the eye of a crab, which is the most efficient light collecting device on the planet. While in college during the 1980's in the middle of the farm crisis, my dad was struggling to keep the farm and I was trying to think of ways we could solve the problem without paying farmers to take productive farmland out of production, which to this day does not make sense to me or farmers. It was then when Bob Bachner, who owned Silicon Sensers in Dodgeville, WI, expanded my universe with the idea of decentralized power in the form of small solar arrays located on the marginal land of every farm in the United States. Win-Win I thought as I dreamed of super-efficient solar cells and "eye of the crab" solar collectors powering sterling engines which would drive electric generators. I have fond memories debating the merits of both ideas with Bob who was light years ahead of his time.
Instead of paying farmers to keep productive farmland out of production, why don't our legislators think of creative legislation which would foster decentralized solar and wind power, eliminating the need for high voltage transmission lines, and driving community wide economic growth by allowing all farms, businesses, and homes to benefit; all of this could happen while simultaneously increasing all property values, and supplying our energy needs at the same time. Current legislation is designed instead to foster mega industrial wind farms and ATC lines which benefit a giant Canadian multi-national company and a few farmers who are "lucky" enough to get a tower. This legislation is also designed to put a land owner like me in the unthinkable position of making a choice between a principled yet foolish decision not to sign a lease with Pattern Energy, and breaking his daughters heart. If our legislators would allow us to decide if we wanted giant industrial wind farms as a community I would be quiet, but they have disallowed any input from us uneducated unsophisticated locals. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to stop Pattern Energy from surrounding Belmont, Mineral Point, and Dodgeville with 650' wind towers, but we could lobby our legislators and challenge them to make equitable changes to the law so this same thing doesn't happen to the next unsuspecting community.
Dave Knapp
Mineral Point, WI

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