Behind the Crazy Anti-Wind-Farm Arguments

Solar FarmWhenever there is a poll question about something stupid, you can depend upon a fair number of Americans holding the ridiculous position. For example, there was a recent poll that found that 29% of Americans think Obama is a Muslim. I’m generally sympathetic to the argument that these people don’t really believe this. They are rather signalling in whatever way the questions allow that they really, really, really don’t like Obama. But I’m not certain. I don’t really know what is going on in these people’s minds. Indeed, a recent article made me question the basic brain functioning of my fellow Americans. But when I dug down into it, I found it was more complicated than is being reported.

Samuel Osborne reported in The Independent, US Town Rejects Solar Panels Amid Fears They “Suck Up All the Energy From the Sun.” The town in question is Woodland, North Carolina. Strata Solar Company wanted to build a solar farm north of the town. This required that the land be re-zoned from manufacturing to agricultural. The town council rejected the plan, despite the fact that the planning board was in favor of it. But it’s worse than that. The council had previous accepted plans for three other solar farms. But at the same meeting, the council voted for a moratorium on solar farms.

What could be the cause of this reversal? Well, the people have risen up. Some of the complaints at least seem reasonable. Mary Hobbs said that the existing solar farms have killed the local economy. I don’t really see that. Woodland isn’t exactly a tourist destination. It’s probably dying for the same economic reasons that lots of other small towns are dying. But it is true that the solar farm is not like a factory; it would create few jobs. At the same time, the Strata farm would probably have been very lucrative because its location was close to an electrical substation. This kind of local investment is not likely to revitalize the community.

Other concerns were less debatable. Jane Mann argued that the vegetation near solar panels is brown because of lack of sunlight. Her husband Bobby concurred, saying that the solar farms suck up all the energy from the sun. They are also concerned about cancer deaths, which the solar farms are supposedly responsible for. But mixed in with all the crazy, there is some sense. The Manns are still primarily concerned with what is going to happen to the town because of the solar farm. As Jane Mann said, “I don’t see the profit for the town.”

That’s a good point. The site for the Strata solar farm is outside the town limits and so the town will get no tax benefit from it, “The only funding the town would get is approximately $7,000 per year for specialized training for the Woodland Fire Department in the event of an electrical malfunction at the solar plant.” Get that: the company is only going to pay to make sure that the publicly funded fire department is properly educated on how to serve the company’s interests. So regardless of how silly the concerns may be, there really is nothing to counterbalance it.

Now, I’m in favor of solar farms. This is exactly the kind of thing we should be doing. But we come back to the same problem as ever: inequality. The rich want to place their solar farms out where they don’t have to see them. They can just siphon off the profits to wherever they decide the view is nicest. And the people of Woodland get nothing very clear in exchange. It’s not surprising that they start talking about solar farms sucking.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

10 thoughts on “Behind the Crazy Anti-Wind-Farm Arguments

  1. Of course the media was not going to go with “Town Members Concerned Local Development Will Have No Economic Benefit” when there is silly rednecks to laugh at.

    Eh, I have long been in favor of requiring all businesses to have solar on their roofs. It just makes sense to do that since then the Terrorists (TM) will have trouble cutting off the power.

    • The original article in the local paper did a good job. This stuff was mentioned far down the article and it was put in context. It was the larger media organizations that blew it out of proportion. It’s no doubt harder to mock people when you know them. It’s a tiny town. Like 700 people.

      • I guessed as much-they would be the ones to have that kind of a headline but the national media would be all Nelson Muntz at them and point and laugh.

        The sad thing is that this teaches us to not trust the news. I will read all of the headlines on Raw Story or Salon or any other number of websites and know that half the story is not there because they just want the ad revenue.

        • I find that a lot of outrage articles are finessed. It’s just like outrage on social media. Most of the time there is nothing to be outraged about; people are just reading it in such a way as to be outraged.

          Speaking of Nelson, there was a recent episode where Lisa went with the school to a math olympiad and when they got there, the principal said it was probably safe to reveal their math geek t-shirts. A limo pulls up, Nelson jumps out and punches them all, jumps back in and tells the driver to go next to the student congress (or such). I thought it was quite brilliant.

          • Yep, and the hyper punishment calls. If there is an article that talks about how someone did something at their job poorly, there seems to be endless demands to fire everyone involved. Even when someone does their job correctly but it seems to look odd to the non-insider there is a demand the person get fired for no other reason then “I don’t like the system.” No due process, no respect of rights, just punishment as nasty as possible.

            That is funny but at the same time sad for the Muntz thing.

            • As I’ve noted, I know liberals who don’t like unions because of jealousy. Forcing people out of a job because you don’t like the government agency is similar. And, of course, they’ve all been told that government workers are lazy and overpaid…

              I think the show’s been explicit about his dysfunctional family life?

              • Yep-which is part of why government workers feel miserable at work these days. They are being told that they are not doing anything worthy and are just a drain on society.

                Oh yes, I am aware so it is sad he has to bully people to feel better but also sad that the students were not able to avoid being made fun of for their geekery.

                • It’s really bad because most people have no idea what they do. It’s like people thinking that 25% of government spending is on foreign aid. It’s just this vague feeling that you are being wronged and wanting to take it out on someone.

                  So we know that Nelson has reasons for the way he acts. What’s Trump’s excuse? I assume that Ted Cruz was brutalized by his father, so there’s that.

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