Everyone is talking about that stupid town that voted against solar energy because it would suck up the energy of the sun. So I read the story from the local paper, and hey, it wasn’t as stupid as it was made out to be, and there are actually valid arguments against solar farms.
I’m entirely in favor of more wind and solar power, but let’s not pretend there are no problems with them. The residents of Woodland, NC brought up real concerns.
Mary Hobbs has been living in Woodland for 50 years and said she has watched it slowly becoming a ghost town with no job opportunities for young people.
She said her home is surrounded by solar farms and is no longer worth its value because of those facilities.
She added that the only people profiting are the landowners who sell their land, the solar companies, and the electrical companies.
A solar farm can have a huge footprint, and is a rather passive contributor to a community. Try to imagine living in a place where large amounts of real estate are dedicated to just soaking in sunlight and turning it into electricity — that does not sound very lively or exciting, and it does have a cost to the community. I live in a place where a lot of acreage is committed to collecting solar energy and turning it into corn, and we have that same problem with young people seeing no reason to stay here.
And this next bit is a real worry:
Jane Mann said she is a local native and is concerned about the plants that make the community beautiful.
She is a retired Northampton science teacher and is concerned that photosynthesis, which depends upon sunlight, would not happen and would keep the plants from growing. She said she has observed areas near solar panels where the plants are brown and dead because they did not get enough sunlight.
You’re putting up giant panels to block sunlight from reaching the ground. Of course plants are brown and dead underneath them. Why shouldn’t you have reservations about a facility that’s going to be the equivalent of a giant parking lot to local plant and animal life?
You might argue that the next question is approaching goofiness, though.
She also questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her that solar panels didn’t cause cancer.
“I want to know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I want information. Enough is enough. I don’t see the profit for the town.
Except, again, there is a real reason for worry. Solar panels do contain metallic toxins and carcinogens, although it’s going to be a much bigger problem where they are manufactured. This is a case where I’m not going to laugh at someone asking the question.
The next bit seems to be generating the greatest hilarity. But it also has a less loony interpretation.
Bobby Mann said he watched communities dry up when I-95 came along and warned that would happen to Woodland because of the solar farms.
“You’re killing your town,” he said. “All the young people are going to move out.”
He said the solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland.
Yeah, I kind of suspect he’s talking about how committing large amounts of land to a solar farm would suck the energy out of the town. And it’s true: a representative from the solar farm basically told the town that it wouldn’t cost them anything, but it also wouldn’t bring in much. All the town would get is $7000 a year for training the fire department to handle potential emergencies out at the big collection of silicon and metal. And then the town voted to deny them a zoning change to build it.
I’d like to see more solar energy, but let’s recognize that it’s not without ecological consequences, and especially if you’re buying up fallow land that has other utility and other potential, it’s not crazy for a place to decide that maybe it’s in their best long term interests.
I’m not just being a luddite (usually I’m the opposite). But it is fair to point out that solar is going to have huge land use concerns, isn’t going to bring much revenue to a community, has the potential to be a source of toxins, and isn’t exactly an attraction to make the place better for residents.