Renewables Rejected: How American Communities Successfully Block Wind & Solar Projects

Americans fight – which is the only way to beat Big Wind and Big Solar when they’re threatening anyone’s backyard.

Over the last few years, American communities have banded together, got organised and lawyered up. The result is an enviable string of victories by which pro-community and pro-reliable energy groups have defeated the crony capitalists and subsidy seeking carpetbaggers hoping to use their victims’ taxes to help them destroy the fabric of American rural life.

Increasing opposition to having their landscape carpeted in 600-700 foot high wind turbines and endless seas of solar panels was inevitable.

If you only subscribe to the ‘renewables will save us’ mob however, you’d believe that all is well and there is no limit to the number of these things or solar panels that the American heartland will take. Well, that’s the propaganda from RE GHQ, anyway.

Robert Bryce has been following the backlash against wind and solar across America for some time now. Here he is again.

Backlash Against Renewables Surged In 2021, With 31 Big Wind And 13 Big Solar Projects Vetoed Across US
Forbes
Robert Bryce
27 January 2022

Of the many whoppers that renewable-energy promoters use while advocating for huge increases in the use of wind and solar, the most absurd claim is that building massive amounts of new renewable energy capacity won’t require very much land. Indeed, that assertion is often made by climate activist Bill McKibben.

Or consider a report published in 2020 by San Francisco-based Energy Innovation, a “nonpartisan energy and environmental policy firm,” which claimed that all of the wind and solar kit needed to get us to 90 percent zero-carbon electricity would amount to a mere “28,200 square kilometers” (about 10,900 square miles). The report’s authors helpfully point out that that much territory would be “about triple the land currently devoted to golf courses, and equivalent to about half the land owned by the Department of Defense.” It must be noted that one of the authors of that report, Sonia Aggarwal, now works in the White House in the Office of Domestic Climate Policy as a senior policy advisor.

Despite the many false claims about the land intensity of renewables, the physics and the math don’t lie. The incurably low power density of wind and solar energy (which are the subject of a 10-minute TED-style talk I gave last week) means that they require cartoonish amounts of land. Furthermore, the notion that there are plenty of rural towns and counties who just can’t wait to have forests of 600-foot-high wind turbines and oceans of solar panels inflicted upon them is nothing more than rank propaganda. Furthermore, as the industry has grown, the land grab (and ocean grab) being attempted by companies like NextEra Energy, Invenergy, Avangrid, Copenhagen Energy Partners, and others, has spawned a backlash that is raging from the fishing docks in Montauk and Rhode Island, to McKibben’s home state of Vermont (where, by the way, you can’t build wind turbines), out west to Shasta County and Oahu, as well as in Canada, Germany, France, Australia and other countries around the world.

The unassailable truth is that land-use conflicts are the binding constraint on the growth of renewables and the industry’s growth is already being hindered by the rural backlash.

The latest updates to the Renewable Rejection Database show that in 2021 alone, 31 communities rejected the encroachment of the wind sector. The database also shows that between 2015 and 2021, 323 communities from Hawaii to Maine have rejected or restricted Big Wind. Among the most recent rejections: Boone County, Missouri, where, last November, the county commission passed rules that limit the height of wind turbines and requires 1,750-foot setbacks from property lines. (Full ordinance is here.) After the vote, the head of Renew Missouri lamented to KCRG-TV reporter Jessica Hart that the new rules will “make it impossible for wind farms to be developed in the county.”

Yes, well. That seems to be the point, doesn’t it?

Now, back to the database. The late American engineer and statistician W. Edwards Deming, famously said “In God we trust, all others bring data.”

Since 2015 — on my own time and on my own dime — I have been doing as Deming demanded. Using Google News Alerts and other sources, I’ve collected and compiled news stories about the regulations and tactics rural communities are implementing to protect themselves.  Over the past few days, I have been updating my spreadsheets and have, with a bit of help from Susan Ralston of Citizens for Responsible Solar, expanded the database to include rejections of Big Solar.

The Renewable Rejection Database now includes details on the 13 large solar projects that were rejected in 2021. Among those: solar projects in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Montana, which were rejected or withdrawn after meeting fierce local opposition. Among the most recent rejections: In November, regulators in Henry County, Virginia, rejected two large proposed solar projects. (Note: I will no longer be updating the database that was published alongside the “Not In Our Backyard” report which I wrote for the Center of the American Experiment and was published in April 2021. Also, if I have missed a rejection or restriction that belongs in the Renewable Rejection Database, readers may contact me through my website. If you are sending an item, please include the details of the rejection, county, project name, and most important: a link to any media coverage of the event.)

Rural Americans are objecting to the encroachment of wind projects because they don’t want to see the red-blinking lights atop those 50- or 60-story-high wind turbines, all night, every night, for the rest of their lives. They are also concerned — and rightly so — about the deleterious health effects of noise from the turbines, sleep disturbance, and potential decrease in their property values. They are objecting to solar projects because they want to protect valuable farmland from being taken out of production. They are also, rightly, concerned about their property values and viewsheds.

The solar section of the Renewable Rejection Database is not as extensive as the wind section as I have not been tracking the solar rejections as long. That said, it is abundantly clear that the backlash against solar is growing like kudzu. Back in 2019, as I reported in the New York Post, the town board of Cambria, New York (population: 6,000) unanimously rejected a proposed 100-megawatt solar project that would have covered about 900 acres with solar panels. “We don’t want it,” Cambria Town Supervisor Wright Ellis, who has held that position for 27 years, told me. “We are opposed to it.” The proposed project, he said, violated Cambria’s zoning laws. In addition, Ellis said it would result in a “permanent loss of agricultural land” and potentially reduce the value of some 350 nearby homes.

The rise in anti-solar groups can be seen by the surging number of anti-solar groups on Facebook. One estimate I have seen shows that the number of such groups has more than tripled since 2018 and now totals several dozen. While I haven’t had time to corroborate those numbers, it is abundantly clear that small groups of citizens across the country are using Facebook as an organizing tool to counter the enormous amount of money, lobbying, and legal firepower that is being deployed by Big Wind and Big Solar.

One of those Facebook groups is the Concerned Residents of Worth and Winnebago Counties, Iowa. A member of that group is the indomitable Julie Kuntz, who I met last summer in Albert Lea, Minnesota. Kuntz is a clinical pharmacist who farms in Worth County, Iowa. Last year, she told, “My parents raised me on a century farm that’s three miles from where I live now. These are my people. This is my area. I’m going to fight to preserve it.” Last year, in response to objections from local citizens, the Worth County Board of Supervisors passed a moratorium on new wind projects that expires in July 2022.

It must be noted that the surging backlash against Big Solar is occurring at the same time the Biden Administration and the myriad solar-energy advocates at the Department of Energy are claiming that the U.S. should be getting 45% of its electricity from solar panels by 2045.

Speaking of solar, I’d be remiss not to mention that nearly half of the world’s polysilicon, the key ingredient in solar panels, has been coming from Xinjiang province, where the Chinese government has a program of systematic repression and forced labor. Last year, the US State Department declared that China was practicing “genocide and crimes against humanity” against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, including forced labor to produce polysilicon for solar panels.

The updates to the Renewable Rejection Database will, of course, be ignored by the Sierra Club, one of the biggest and richest activist groups in America. The Sierra Club doesn’t want you to know about these rejections. Rural America is invisible to the Sierra Clubbers and their myriad allies at elite schools like Stanford University, Princeton University, and the University of California at Berkeley. Rural America is also largely invisible to reporters and journalists at most big-city media outlets. That means that the land-use conflicts that are now raging in Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, and other states get ignored by most media outlets.

The updates to the Renewable Rejection Database are the latest installment of the reporting I have been doing on the sector for more than a decade. My interest in the backlash against renewables began in 2010 after I was contacted by Charlie Porter, a horse trainer in King City, Missouri, who suffered health problems after a string of wind turbines were built near his rural home. Porter filed a lawsuit against the owner of the wind project, claiming that noise from the turbines was causing sleeplessness, anxiety, and dizziness. (Porter later settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money. In a 2019 phone interview, he told the author of this report that the company that owned the wind project had written him a “big check” and that he was not allowed to discuss the litigation or the amount of the settlement.)

I hope the Renewable Rejection Database will inject more realism into our politics and energy discussions. Energy realism is energy humanism. Energy realism requires accepting the reality that large-scale renewable projects are dividing rural communities all across America. Energy realism requires accepting the fact that we must stop subsidizing the destruction of our natural environment and our wildlife, with intermittent, weather-dependent sources of electricity that cannot — will not — be able to meet our energy and power needs.

My other hope for the Renewable Rejection Database is that it will further debunk the claims that renewables are low-cost or somehow morally or environmentally superior. One of my intellectual heroes is Jesse Ausubel, who by the way, was on the Power Hungry Podcast last October. Ausubel, the director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University nails the situation when he says: “Wind and solar may be renewable, but they are not ‘green.’”
Forbes

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Van Snyder says:

    How long until Facebook and Twitter cancel their accounts?

  2. Glori Heimke says:

    10 million acres is all Wisconsin has in total! THIS IS WHY I FIGHT BIG SOLAR!

  3. Jeny Hammer says:

    I am just a middle class country mom concerned about the future we are headed in. I live in Ohio and I’m part of a local grassroots group to stop the Fountain Point Solar Project in Logan County, Ohio. I am not an expert by any means and lost as to how we can stop these large industrial developers from wrecking communities, counties, and states across America by taking over agricultural land for solar.

    Ohio has fell for these false and unsubstantiated claims about renewable energy. Solar developers are flooding Ohio, bribing farmland owners millions of dollars to convert their land to solar panels. Developers are dropping these ‘solar farms’ right into residential country communities where their property is surrounded by arrays like a prison. Government officials have ‘green money’ in their pockets, there are no zoning regulations where they can put them, developers have a sneaky process to get these projects approved, and by the time the community or county is made aware it can’t be stopped.

    Here are some numbers regarding ‘solar farms’ in Ohio. There are 53 cases filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board, of which the majority have been filled within the last 2 years. Counties are being bombarded with projects where new ones pop up before the first one is even filed. Only ONE case has been denied and is now being appealed. These projects have taken over 49,404 acres of high-yielding farmland and an additional 40,543 acres is pending (statically likely to be approved). That’s a total of 89,953 acres and growing everyday! Ohio is sunny at most 176 days a year. Developers are flooding here because of the PJM Eastern Interconnection grid which is struggling and just asked for a 2-year pause. https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2022/02/03/pjm-flooded-with-interconnection-requests-proposes-two-year-review-pause/

    The grassroots in Ohio are raising their voices on deaf ears. Ohio is in the agricultural belt and America depends on these crops. Not only aren’t these solar farms efficient, but this will cause a domino effect with regard to our ecosystem and feeding America.

    I guess I’m writing because you seem as concerned as many Americans are when it comes to this push for 100% carbon-free by 2035 by our President. My real question is how to prevent this when the system is set up to profit the wealthy. We need research, evidence to present to the OPSB to halt these projects and show the board that these ‘solar farms’ aren’t as great as these developers are showing them. So far they are winning and the people are losing.

    • Jeff Walther says:

      If you have an avenue by which you can contact land owners, you might try asking them if their contracts contain a clear responsibility and financing for removing the wind turbine or solar panels and all foundational material when the rent payments stop.

      How is that financed? Is there anything to stop the company from selling the “project” to a shell company with no assets which then declares bankruptcy when it’s time to clean up the mess?

      Land owners may be tricked into trading land for money in the present, but most of them don’t want to be left with an industrial mess at the end of hte term.

  4. i am not as hard on the general public for their lack of awareness and understanding about climate change (too apocolyptic in my opinion) and energy related issues. The vast majority are information victims, that when presented with articles like this, in my experience, seem genuienly interested and suprised. Rather our critisism might be better aimed at the abysmal state of investigative journalism. That said, this author, Mr. Bryce is moving the needle with compelling, passionate, and common sense. Foward his work, link to it, cite it, post it, and talk about it. I’d suggest that is a better path than attacking a public that is at the mercy of corrupt institutions. Give them the tools to perceive other alternative, like this well wrtiten article.

  5. Peter Pronczak says:

    The ignorance & innocence of the intentionally uneducated public is palpable.
    Floods in Queensland prove governments don’t care about working class people. If they did, we would have a nuclear network to supply life saving electricity, water & mitigate floods. But it would require a large educated population that would not put up with the political system as it is now throughout the common two party dominating system.

    As this post shows, people power breaks through the imposed control once self education against the reality takes place. Much like the mass amnesia that Obama spent $5billion to overthrow the elected Ukraine government, contrary to agreement, so forces could antagonistically move to the western Russian border. And then play the manipulation blame game. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nato-s-eastward-expansion-did-the-west-break-its-promise-to-moscow-a-663315.html https://truthout.org/articles/the-push-to-expand-nato-could-cost-countless-lives-its-time-to-stop-it/

    And all for what? The self policing wage slavery of the ‘there’s more from where they came from’ working class people that has been in control since ancient times to maintain the savagely of mankind.

    Why else is RE and private profit subsidised in a supposed laissez faire financial system?
    Like the internet, there are no properly regulated boundaries.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: