When an energy company decided it wanted to build a solar farm in the sleepy town of Archer, Florida, activists stood up and took notice. The town, which is steeped in Black history (rock legend Bo Diddley was born there), is also one of the few counties in Florida where Black homeownership — the prime driver for middle-class wealth — is at a much higher rate than most other counties in Florida. Yet, if this proposed solar farm — reported recently by The Grio — were to go up on 650 acres of vacant farmland near the St. Petersburg area, the residents would receive no benefits from its presence.
And, in fact, they’d be all but driven out — which, they say, is the point.
Jeraldine McMillan, who is a native of Archer, told the local CBS affiliate that none of the residents would receive benefits like cheaper electricity, for example.
“We get our power from Clay Electric, and this whole project does not benefit us at all, and that’s where they overlooked us,” she said. “We grew up in this area. We’ve been here all our lives, and it’s generations of generations that have been here. It’s not right.”
The residents of Archer say that they’re victims of what’s known as environmental racism. This neologism is used to describe how environmental factors caused by global warming and other climate change factors have all but pushed people — mostly Black and Brown, because of course — out of their homes. (Other examples include the Flint water crisis and the Sierra Blanca toxic waste dumping endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders). So convinced are they of this — and rightly so — that the NAACP has gotten involved to prevent the solar farm from going up.
“The Alachua County Branch of the NAACP stands in support of the citizens of Archer in opposition to the Sand Bluff Solar Project in Archer Florida,” reads an online petition by the organization. “This project is proposed to be built in a community and we are concerned this zoning exemption will destroy property values of the homes and land that adjoins the project. We request you please reject the Sand Bluff Solar Project in Archer.”
Archer Residents Are Fighting the Solar Farm Now — But Gov. DeSantis Has Made Sure They Can't In The Future
Even though Archer, FL residents have been getting victory after victory in court — with the most recent one being in October 2021 — Gov. Ron DeSantis (who seems to be working overtime for his “DeSatan” moniker) has pre-emptively passed a law to make sure they can’t do so in the future.
“On June 28, 2021, the legislature passed SB 896 after rushing it through the Senate and the House in the final days of its summer session, amidst a flurry of other preemption bills. House Bill 1008, blocking local governments from opposing solar facilities on land zoned for agriculture, was added as an amendment,” reports Inside Climate News. “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed it into law the following day.”