solarsite445

A stretch of farmland off La. 445 east of Amite City that could become home to one of South Louisiana's next solar projects.

Solar panels are hot right now, and not just because they turn the heat of the sun into electricity: farmland is being purchased and developed for utility-scale acreage in rural areas.

For Tangipahoa Parish, with lots of rural land and no parishwide zoning, alternative energy should be a natural, but controversy is flaring there as it has elsewhere.

Two projects are in the works but the Parish Council wants to apply new rules, including buffers of trees to hide the facilities, and to deal with any potential drainage problems.

A pro-development member of the council, Carlo S. Bruno, noted that special rules for particular industries or sites are proliferating, including traditional property developments that have caused controversies in the parish.

In areas with zoning regulations, Bruno’s concerns would be called worries about “spot zoning,” or favoritism within the rules — situations where courts have often stepped in to enforce fair regulation of development.

We’re not sure what the answer is for Tangipahoa or West Baton Rouge or other areas where solar farms have caused concerns. An expert from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette told the Tangipahoa council that farmers should not worry that solar panels will poison their water sources or hinder future agricultural use of the land.

What is unreasonable is fearing what is new. And it is the duty of political leaders to not act as if every Facebook rumor about solar panel facilities should be taken as gospel truth.