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As Demand for Green Energy Grows, Solar Farms Face Local Resistance

Business News/Analysis, Florida, Funding/Financing/Investing, New York, Ohio, Opinions, Oregon, Policy, Sustainability, Texas
November 3, 2021

by Ellen Rosen (New York Times) Developers say industrial-scale farms are needed to meet the nation’s climate goals, but locals are fighting back against what they see as an encroachment on their pastoral settings.  READ MORE

As Demand for Green Energy Grows, Solar Farms Face Local Resistance (Lightlynews.com) 

As Solar Scales Up, Development Controversies Follow (Planetizen)

As Demand for Green Energy Grows, Solar Farms Face Local Resistance (News Express)

An African American Community in Florida Blocked Two Proposed Solar Farms. Then the Florida Legislature Stepped In. — Residents in Archer fought the facilities and won two votes by the Alachua County commissioners. But under “preemption” legislation signed by Gov. DeSantis, the county is now powerless to stop similar plans in the future. (Inside Climate News)

Several landowners appealing approval of solar farm near Lincoln (Lincoln Journal Star)

Solar boom casts shadow on Death Valley National Park (E&E News)

Made in the Shade: The Promise of Farming with Solar Panels (NRDC)

 

Excerpt from Lightlynews.com: “We heard loud and clear,” stated Diane Sullivan, Hecate’s senior vice chairman for environmental and allowing. “People felt that the venture was too giant they usually wished us to shrink it down.”

Hecate lower the scale of the deliberate growth to 245 acres, which it says will nonetheless produce the 60 megawatts of electrical energy within the authentic design.

The Copake battle mirrors comparable battles raging throughout the nation in rural areas like Lake County, Ore.; Clinton County, Ohio; and Troy, Texas. Developers say industrial-scale photo voltaic farms are wanted to satisfy the nation’s targets to mitigate the rise of local weather change, however locals are combating again in opposition to what they see as an encroachment on their pastoral settings, the lack of agricultural land and a decline in property values.

“This will not be a black-and-white scenario,” stated Jeanne E. Mettler, the city supervisor in Copake. …

Until lately, most farms have been constructed within the West, the place plentiful sunshine powers industrial-scale photo voltaic arrays and installations have been farther away from sight traces. But now, with federal and state governments committing to a discount in fossil fuels, joined by company giants like Amazon and Microsoft, the business is searching for photo voltaic installations in areas the place the calculus is extra difficult.

In the primary half of this 12 months alone, builders put in 5.7 gigawatts of photo voltaic capability, for a complete of 108.7 gigawatts of capability, enough to succeed in 18.9 million U.S. houses, in response to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That quantity is simply anticipated to develop, stated Sean Gallagher, the group’s vice chairman for state and regulatory affairs.

The proposals typically contain a whole bunch of acres of photo voltaic panels. “Typically, 5 to seven acres are wanted to create one megawatt of energy,” stated Matt Birchby, co-founder and president of Swift Current Energy, a photo voltaic developer that’s engaged on a proposal for Clark County, Ky.  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Inside Climate News:  (Michelle) Rutledge rallied her community to fight the proposed solar facilities, ultimately persuading the Alachua County commissioners to deny both projects. But her victory was short-lived: This summer, the state legislature voted to pass legislation backed by the power industry to prevent municipal governments from blocking any new energy infrastructure, not only undercutting local control, but delivering a blow to the environmental justice movement in the country’s third most populated state.

Rutledge and Gerrie Crawford, who also live across from the proposed power plant site, said some residents had received word a month earlier about a remote community workshop, via Zoom, at which the power plant would be explained. 

“They only had, from what I gathered afterwards, six or eight people on the call,” Crawford said. “And they called it community engagement. It’s like wait a minute… six people can’t speak for our community,” she said. 

Crawford said she soon organized a community conference call of her own for the neighbors to talk about the issue to get a better sense of what was going on so that they could  plan ahead. 

“And as we delved more into it we realized this plan was on the table for some years,” she said. “And here we are just finding out about it over a holiday weekend. And you’re saying that you had community engagement. So, we just kind of started from that point.” 

The neighbors formed a core group, Crawford continued, which held a couple meetings with the county commissioners. “We hired ourselves an attorney by pooling our money together, knowing that we will have to take the charge,” she added.

The Saint Peter Saint Paul Community Council’s mission was to highlight future environmental and health impacts from the solar power project on the community. 

“It’s a great idea. But it’s in the wrong location,” said Crawford, who became the chair of the newly-formed community group, referring to the planned solar facility .  

“We asked the county government to consider cumulative factors such as compatibility, community impact, cultural significance, systemic racism in land use, zoning and urban planning, and environmental racism while making a decision,” she said.

Crawford said that African American families in Archer have worked the land there since the early 1800s. “My grandfather bought our property 100 years ago,” she said. 

Neighbors and members of her family, she said, are descendants of those who were driven out of Rosewood in Levy County, a little over 30 miles from Archer, in 1923 during the Rosewood Massacre, when several hundred whites burned the town to the ground and killed six Black residents, and possibly many more, according to eyewitness accounts.

In 1994, the state of Florida allocated $2.1 million for surviving victims of the massacre. 

”Our families have experienced historical events such as the Rosewood Massacre,” she said. “Our families have ties to those types of experiences since the Civil War, Jim Crow, and having to escape.”

The proposed solar farm, she said, also  threatened a cemetery where her ancestors are buried across the street from St. Peter’s Baptist Church, which was founded in 1867.

Crawford said that in the 1960s, the drive to electrify neighborhoods rendered her great aunt’s property unusable because of the high-transmission wires and huge poles that ran right through the property.

“And this will happen again this time around in the name of renewables,” Crawford said. “We support renewable energy. But we feel it has to be a just transition to break the cycle of past injustices in the name of progress.”

The residents of Saint Peter had scored a victory. But they soon had to face another fight. In the spring of 2021, Miami-based Origis Energy applied for a second special exemption  for another 638-acre utility-scale solar power plant. The proposed location was a different historically African-American rural neighborhood right outside the Archer city limits called Sand Bluff.

As with the previous proposal, Black residents living in the neighborhood for generations owned a large portion of the surrounding land and objected to the proposal for similar reasons.      READ MORE

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