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Canniff: Oppose location of OPALCO's Microgrid Project on San Juan Island

  • Written by Jan and Bill Canniff

Letter sent to county regarding Bailer Hill Microgrid project.

Dear San Juan Department of Community Development

We are writing to express our concerns regarding the location of Opalco's Bailer Hill Microgrid Project, particularly its proximity to the Oaks Manufactured Homes Park. While we are proponents of solar energy, we find it troubling that the Bailer Hill area has been selected for this project without taking into consideration the sentiments of the residents living in the Oaks.

To our knowledge, there has not been any outreach by Opalco to the Oaks residents to gather their thoughts and feelings regarding this significant undertaking. This lack of community engagement raises questions about the decision-making process and whether the preferences of those residing in the Oaks have been duly considered.

One cannot help but wonder if the proposed location would have been different had the Oaks comprised million-dollar homes. Is there a possibility of discrimination against those living in manufactured homes? It is disconcerting to note that Opalco has engaged with Oak Knoll Farm while seemingly neglecting the concerns of our community.

Here are our specific concerns that we ask you to address:

  • Safety: The project's proximity to the only road leading in and out of the Oaks poses a significant safety risk. In the event of a fire at the solar plant, approximately 150 families of the Oaks could be trapped if fire obstructs access for emergency vehicles.
  • Glare:  Will the solar panels cause glare that could potentially blind drivers on Bailer Hill Road or create glare on the nearby hillside?
  • Communication Interference: Is there a possibility of communication interference with our cell phones, internet, and television signals due to the project?
  • Noise: Will the operation of the microgrid result in a humming noise that could disturb residents? Energy News Network reported on June 16, 2023, in an article by Lisa Prevost that residents in East Windsor, Connecticut living close to the solar plant were experiencing a “high pitched fan noise” from “as soon as the sun comes up until it goes down”. Nothing has been done to mitigate the noise and the residents are still awaiting action.
  • Economics:  The implementation of a solar plant in close proximity to the Oaks neighborhood would inevitably impact our property values and undermine our financial investments in our homes. It would require us to make sacrifices that will significantly affect our financial prospects for the future. Most residents are seniors, and this will put an unfair financial burden at a vulnerable time of life.

Given these concerns, we strongly urge that the project be relocated to another area farther away from a main road and residential properties. It is imperative that the safety and well-being of the Oaks community are prioritized in any decision regarding this project.

We kindly request that you address these concerns and provide clarification on the steps that will be taken to mitigate any potential negative impacts to our community if you go forward with this project.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Jan and Bill Canniff