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Solar: One Piece of the Energy Puzzle (Letter to the Editor)

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In an Aug. 1 letter to the editor, a reader expressed concerns about the downside of solar, and I’d like to address them.

One thought is that farmers are using valuable land for solar production, not food. Arkansas farmers already accept an obscene amount of risk every year just to put a seed in the ground. Who are we to tell them how to use their land? Prohibiting a farmer from growing solar for energy would be like prohibiting a farmer from growing corn for ethanol. 

Solar energy production is a tool farmers can utilize to offset rising energy expenses or even sell through a power purchase agreement, taking one unstable variable out of the equation. In fact, Arkansas lawmakers and regulators have enabled renewable energy generation as a resource so our farmers can continue feeding the world.

Fortunately, we live in a highly food secure nation thanks to our farmers and ranchers, who grow a safe and high-quality food supply. Now more than ever, we recognize the need to diversify our energy sources to help ensure energy security. 

Solar power is one piece of that puzzle. I certainly agree with Foreign Policy and Bloomberg that sourcing 100% of our energy from any singular type of production, solar or otherwise, would be foolish. As such, many Arkansas energy providers are acting accordingly, incorporating solar into their new energy generation plans. Dependable energy production, like food production, is a national security issue, and Arkansas is a leader in both.

Some say we are over-subsidizing renewable energy. But according to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. gave out $662 billion in fossil fuel subsidies in 2020 alone, compared with roughly 1% of that figure, or $6.8 billion, toward renewables through the federal income tax credit.

Of course energy is subsidized. It’s why we pay less than half the price for gasoline that drivers do in Germany. 

Finally, no plan to reduce emissions should be completely contingent on a sole source of energy. Is renewable energy going to single-handedly solve our nation’s energy problems? Absolutely not. But it will play a role in a diversified portfolio of sustainable energy sources and help to guarantee our energy independence. As energy prices rise, it’s worth noting that solar power isn’t magic; it’s just math.

— Lauren Waldrip, Executive Director, Arkansas Advanced Energy Association

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