Misinformation is a real thing and the solar industry is no exception.
There is much debate, especially in the heartland of the U.S., with regards to both solar and wind projects and the impact on the communities in which they are built.
Should a landowner such as a farmer who may be struggling to make ends meet be able to lease his land for a solar project? What about agrivoltaics whereby land can be used for both solar electricity generation and farming? When should aesthetics be factored in and who makes the determination of what looks good and what doesn’t?
These are just a few questions that many communities are asking. It’s important to obtain as much accurate information as possible and then weigh that information to make an informed decision.
Unfortunately, there are groups on a mission to influence these communities with misinformation. Here is an article by NPR about one organization working hard to fight the advancement of clean energy generation including solar and wind.
Roger Houser’s ranching business was getting squeezed. The calves he raises in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley were selling for about the same price they had a few years earlier, while costs for essentials like fuel and fertilizer kept going up. But Houser found another use for his 500 acres.
An energy company offered to lease Houser’s property in rural Page County to build a solar plant that could power about 25,000 homes. It was a good offer, Houser says. More money than he could make growing hay and selling cattle.
“The idea of being able to keep the land as one parcel and not have it split up was very attractive,” Houser says. “To have some passive income for retirement was good. And then the main thing was the electricity it would generate and the good it would do made it feel good all the way around.”
But soon after he got the offer, organized opposition began a four-year battle against solar development in the county. A group of locals eventually joined forces with a nonprofit called Citizens for Responsible Solar to stop the project on Houser’s land and pass restrictions effectively banning big solar plants from being built in the area.
Citizens for Responsible Solar is part of a growing backlash against renewable energy in rural communities across the United States. The group, which was started in 2019 and appears to use strategies honed by other activists in campaigns against the wind industry, has helped local groups fighting solar projects in at least 10 states including Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, according to its website.
“I think for years, there has been this sense that this is not all coincidence. That local groups are popping up in different places, saying the same things, using the same online campaign materials,” says Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.
Citizens for Responsible Solar seems to be a well-mobilized “national effort to foment local opposition to renewable energy,” Burger adds. “What that reflects is the unfortunate politicization of climate change, the politicization of energy, and, unfortunately, the political nature of the energy transition, which is really just a necessary response to an environmental reality.”
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