Officials in Madison County, Ohio are currently at odds with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates over the billionaire’s plans to turn a massive piece of farmland into one of America’s largest ever solar farms, according to a report by The Columbus Dispatch.
Last week, county commissioners in Madison asked state regulatory authorities to reject Gates’ “Oak Run Solar Project,” located on a 6,300 acre chunk of Gates-owned land that he hopes will be home to an 800-megawatt solar farm, 300-megawatt energy storage system, and 3.5 mile-long electric transmission line running through numerous counties in Ohio.
Madison County commissioners believe that Oak Run and similar projects should be paused due to opposition from the community, as three separate projects are currently under construction.
“The Commissioners felt the time was right to pause solar development in the county to better monitor these projects while in the construction phase and to ascertain how these projects impact the community once operational,” wrote the Madison commissioners in a letter to the Ohio Power Sitting Board.
If successful, Gates’ Oak Run project would be one of the “largest solar farms proposed in the U.S.,” reported the Dispatch.
Gates’ project is being developed by Savion – a Kansas City, Missouri-based green energy company – and would be built near Plumwood, consisting of solar panel facilities spanning across 4,400 acres, as well as a 6,050-acre project area.
While the owner of the farmland is listed on county records as “Midwest Farms LLC of Monterey, Louisiana,” separate documents, media reports, and “common knowledge” of citizens in the area have indicated that the Microsoft co-founder is the owner, the Dispatch reported.
Madison County currently has three farms under construction in Big Plain, Fox Squirrel, and Madison Fields, and aims to see how the projects impact the community before approving Gates’ endeavour, said Madison County administrator Rob Slane.
“The commissioners want to see how these projects pan out and what impact we do see,” Slane said.
These projects, along with other solar plants throughout the state, have been met with intense criticism among community members.
Dan G / Flickr
“It was a little bit of a shock,” said Savion senior development manager Sarah Moser. “People don’t like change.”
Moser believes farmers and Ohio citizens will support solar farms in their community when they realize that “they can still farm between and around rows of solar panels,” the Dispatch reported.
“I can’t wait to show farmers that these sites are going to be farmed,” she said. “It’s going to happen. It will just take time to convince people.”
The commissioner’s decision does not permanently stop Gates’ Oak Run project in Madison as the community, Gates, and Savion await March’s Siting Board staff report.
Gates has come under fire for his purchasing of large swaths of U.S. farmland, recently downplaying exactly how much he owns and denying being part of any “grand scheme,” Valiant News reported.
“Why are you buying up so much farmland, do you think this is a problem with billionaire wealth and how much you can disproportionally acquire?” a Reddit user asked Gates during his most recent annual “ask me anything” session on Reddit.
“I own less than 1/4000 of the farmland in the US. I have invested in these farms to make them more productive and create more jobs. There isn’t some grand scheme involved – in fact all these decisions are made by a professional investment team,” Gates replied.
On Reddit, Gates was, once again, repeatedly inquired about his dealings with disgraced pedophile and prolific human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
This news and commentary by Andrew White originally appeared in Valiant News.