I’ve attended several county government hearings on solar energy projects, and one thing stands out: opponents to wind and solar projects are asking the government to intervene to prevent something from happening on your land, not their land. If anti-renewable groups prevail, they strip other property owners of their right to make decisions about their own land.  

Keep in mind solar and wind energy farms are placed on land voluntarily and (temporarily) leased by landowners to renewable energy companies. These leases provide stable and drought-proof income and are an option for families who want to diversify or shore up their income.

Renewable energy opponents want to take that option away.

This was really brought home in a recent Linn County Board of Supervisors hearing. Renee Potts provided moving testimony about how leasing a part of her father’s farm to solar helps keep their farm in her family. Her father is older and no longer able to farm. Rather than sell and lose their family legacy, Renee’s family chose solar. As she told Linn County Supervisors:

“I’m here to support my dad, Ron Potts, to stand by my siblings and other fellow landowners. Solar is the right choice, and we are in the middle…and for me personally, it keeps the farm in the family.”

But according to anti-solar opponents, Renee and her family don’t deserve to keep their farm. This is what one anti-solar leader told the Linn County Board of Supervisors, mentioning the Potts family specifically:

“Look at the jobs those kids have. They don’t need that farm.”

This exchange makes it clear: Landowners who decide to lease to renewable energy projects don’t deserve their land. “They don’t need that farm.” And if your neighbors can decide you don’t need your farm because you leased part of it to solar or you have “good jobs,” might they also decide you don’t need it if you choose not to grow certain crops? Or decide to grow corn for ethanol?  

We think the farmers who own the land should decide what happens on it. Most Iowans agree. In a statewide survey conducted by Bright Future Iowa in early 2022, 67% of Iowa voters are in full support of farmer property rights, agreeing that:

“Farmers should not be told by the government what do with their land; they have the right to use their land how they choose: including to develop renewable energy projects.”

Anti-renewable opponents disagree. In their view, farmers should be told what to do with their land if they plan to lease for solar or wind or have “good jobs.” Or, as the same anti-solar leader also said in her testimony, they are snowbirds and only live in Iowa part-time:

“Every one of the people that leased into this project are 55 years or older. They’re at a different stage of their life. I’m there. They’re looking at things differently. They’re looking at, what do I need to finish out this life? Two of them are snowbirds.”

Sticking our noses into other people’s business and personal decisions about using their land is inconsistent with Iowa’s respect for property rights. We can adopt common-sense parameters around renewable energy projects in response to neighbor concerns. Still, those concerns shouldn’t override the rights of farmers who see renewable energy as a good fit for their farm and family.

An anti-solar leader told Renee Potts and her family that they didn’t need their farm.

What keeps them from telling you that you don’t need yours?

Tell Your County Supervisors to Support Property Rights

Swati Dandekar

Swati Dandekar


Swati Dandekar is a former Ambassador, state utility regulator, and state legislator – and now an advocate for the growth of renewable energy in Iowa as Chairperson of Bright Future Iowa. 

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