As solar power grows, some rural landowners are pushing back against its deployment. Nuanced research in New York state suggests the bigger the project, the bigger the pushback. It is also increasingly common to see pushback based on misinformation and outright lies that are likely being funded by fossil interests.
They give the indication that it’s all bunny rabbits and butterflies over there. And it’s not. It’s 2,400 acres of total destruction.
Reuters News recently covered this pushback, “U.S. solar expansion stalled by rural land-use protests”, and we here at pv magazine USA thought it would be appropriate to insert our two watts worth of opinion by debunking the misinformation.
The article notes that much of the disinformation and organizing against solar is happening on the atrocious platform Facebook, in its ‘groups’.
The article suggests that solar power can only be installed on flat, dry land. While flat, cleared, desert-like land is optimal — and the cheapest — that is not a requirement. Nextracker’s racking product allows solar to be installed on hills, as seen in photo above.
More extreme installations can even be found on mountainsides.
In fact, land doesn’t even need to be firm. Landfills are ideal sites for solar panels, despite the fact that they are constantly settling. Landfill-sited solar capacity could nearly double the Biden administration’s goal to grow community solar, while increasing the total US solar power capacity by around 58%.
The idea that “dry” land is required for optimal solar is wrong as well. One of the nation’s leading utility scale markets is located in one of the rainiest states — Florida. And one of the nation’s most advanced solar markets — Hawaii — is home to one of the rainiest places on earth.
In fact, floating solar panels are a benefit to bodies of water in dry climates because they slow evaporation, significantly preserving precious water reserves. Global floating PV is likely to reach 4.8GW globally by 2026. A project in Portugal just signed a negative contract around a floating facility, which is about to add 263MW of floating solar. China recently switched on one of the world’s largest floating PV plants, at 320MW.
The article, and the opposition groups, also reference the loss of farmland. This author thinks that argument is truly bunk. 40% of our nation’s cornland — 40 million acres worth — is used to fill up the engines of cars. If these millions of acres were turned into agrivoltaic installations, they would power 100% of the grid and 100% of passenger car miles — all while making real food, instead of contributing to farmer welfare.
Other arguments put forth in the article — duly noted by the author as false — are that solar panels “rarely” produce electricity or leach cadmium into the waterways. Well, in reference to the “rarely” comment — if the sun rises, solar is generated, and if the sun doesn’t rise — then well, we have bigger issues than electricity.
Regarding cadmium, this is yet another tall tale. First off, most solar panels have no cadmium or rare earth metals as anti-solar propagandists like to claim. Research — and common sense — has repeatedly shown that solar panels are specifically designed to last for decades without anything getting inside of, or escaping from, the panels.
For example, let’s look at when a FirstSolar power plant was struck by a tornado.
The damaged panels were collected, approximately 135,000 were recycled, and the remainder were disposed of. Sampling of soil and module pieces from the tornado event passed Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure tests, and an environmental non-governmental agency contacted the US Bureau of Land Management and reported no indication of soil contamination.
First Solar, in essence, vacuumed up the broken solar panels and recycled them.
Let me repeat this for the cheap seats, A TORNADO WAS NOT ABLE TO BREAK THE PANELS UP ENOUGH TO LEECH CHEMICALS INTO THE SOIL!
Pardon the loud noises…
One person interviewed in the Reuters article claimed that the herbicides used and electromagnetic waves generated by solar farms pose health concerns. So, I’m guessing the farms next to this individual are purely organic, and that they have no electricity in her home? (Even organic farming is not free from heavy metals).
We believe it’s important to be aware of one of the defense tactics these groups use to spread misinformation via forums, which they are conscious of, and purposefully keep online:
It is important to not judge, and censor utility-scale solar content/opinions contributed by citizens. If we become judge and jury, we are headed down the wrong path.
Much like Fox News has become the propaganda arm of a certain brand of right wing politics in the USA for the sake of power and control, these anti-solar Facebook groups are not seeking truth or education — but seek to push their control. With the blunt reality that fossil fuels have massive sums of money to underwrite these actions, it is highly probable that these are not grassroot organizations in any manner, but highly coordinated and funded actions no different than the lies that have polluted our politics since #ExxonKnew in the 1960s and 70s.
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Solar also doesn’t care if the land it is sitting on is slightly radioactive.
The former Nevada Nuclear test site has hundreds of square miles of sun-drenched land….begging for a Terra-watt size installation.
I strongly support and agree with your general theme and thrust of the article. Especially, the coal fly ash dumps or leaking gas wells or frequent oil well and ship disasters might reasonably be the first targets of concerned citizens if there was a genuine environmental concern.
However, in the spirit of being careful to not inadvertently also make incorrect statements, I want to correct one error above: “Regarding cadmium, this is yet another tall tale. First off, most solar panels have no cadmium”. This is true of Silicon-based modules, which make up >95% of the global market. However, the next biggest player is CdTe (awkwardly, mentioned just after that statement), almost all made by the USA-based company First Solar and its share of the market is significantly higher in USA than the global average.
So, your statement about Cd is mostly true except that it is not generally true, in case First Solar might be the supplier. Solar is not Cd free but >95% of the global market is. If the installation in question is of Si modules, then they will have essentially no Cd.
There is a general problem in the anti-solar media and much genuine confusion among well-meaning people about toxicity in PV. Since a very confusing report by the (I think, well-meaning) Bay Area Toxics Coalition (http://svtc.org/) many years ago, that got global coverage in an imagined media “gotcha”, essentially listed every “nasty” included in, or associated with the development of, all the many and varied solar PV technologies that had been manufactured or experimented with, then implied that all of those “nasties” were a problem for each and every manufactured PV module.
Actually, only lead (Pb), used in the solder to interconnect the cells inside the panel, concerns me, and even then only for after the end-of-life of Si modules. I know what is in Si modules and I am very comfortable with my family living under a roof covered with them.
I am, though, concerned with the uncovered train wagons of coal that are carried over the train lines through my home area, since the toxicity of the dust that blows off them is well established. Even more concerning, for the communities around coal power stations and abandoned coal power stations, is the toxic fly ash left to blow around and/or pollute the ground water. Can we all please be concerned about the big problems first?
This article is exactly what it is railing against. It is pages of hypocrisy. The claim is made that the opinions expressed on social media are the result of fossil fuel propagandizing are as insipid and unsubstantiated as the author claims the opinions to be. The reference to Fox News as being the propaganda arm of some unmentioned political faction is likewise revelatory of an unbalanced, highly biased and unreasoned mind. PV Magazine is diluting it’s credibility with this trash. If PVM needs poor quality filler like this to meet some kind of content quota it would be better to reduce quantity than destroy quality.
I have to respectfully disagree with the proposition that social media hasn’t been weaponized. Look at my “handle” on this platform. Am I a person or a “bot” ? How many “on line” persona’s do I have ? Unless the moderator of any forum has some very sophisticated skills and and possibly illegal tools it is impossible to differentiate real people from a basement full of paid trolls.
Thinking that Fox News is balanced is also revelatory (in may opinion).
Recently the surviving Koch brother ceased and the admitted error of funding a decades-long campaign of climate-denial. A well-documented average of $300 million annually has been spent by the five largest publicly-traded oil and gas majors to fund think-tank denial “research” and misinformation efforts. You won’t see this reported in Fox media. But the willingly uninformed will rage in denial of corporate disinformation efforts on climate change and mitigative measures such a renewable energy.
The thing I’ve realized recently after hearing about the PV/wind resistance is that people are bad at research.
They do a search and look at the first results, these are most likely placed there by search engine optimization done by organizations with money.
In the case of energy, the big players are fossil fuel companies which are the most profitable companies in the history of history as well as getting 35 billion in your tax money because they are depleting the resources they sell because we want to encourage them to keep drilling.
They have a vested interest and money.
Then entire solar and pv industry is a drop in the bucket compared to the fossil fuel industry.
So you will get a definite negative bias from where the money is.
People take the top hits and then formulate an opinion based on this which they feel is vetted and valid and it’s very hard to convince them otherwise even with facts because your facts aren’t any better than theirs and they will need to admit they are uninformed so they dig in deeper when challenged.
Then those people form opposition groups and echo chamber the same ideas to other people and then reinforce the same misinformation.
Also important to this process is posting comments on articles like this that restate the same ideas refuted by the article so anyone who reads the comments will see someone else that agrees with them and it nullifies the article.
So just placing a comment is part of the whole thing.
It’s awful and there really isn’t any way to fix it.
I wonder how Big Solar would do if all the tax payer funded government subsidies were removed. I put solar panels on my home several years ago with the promise that we could nearly eliminate our monthly electric bill. That did happen for the first year…then Southern California Edison began it’s “restructuring” of it billing format. After several succeeding modifications of that, our monthly electric bill is climbing well back toward what it was before solar. SCE is currently attempting to further reduce any benefits we have from solar, claiming we shouldn’t have an “unfair” advantage over those who don’t have solar panels. Oh for the days of clean safe nuclear power that uninformed extremists have managed to shut down.
I see a lot of whining but not a lot of facts. What is the size of your installation? Do you have your own interconnected batteries? About the succeeding modifications ; when were they, what were they, how much were they? Are you consuming the same amount of power now as before when you installed your solar? Additionally the quality of you panels is a factor as there have been issues with declining output with age on some of the cheaper panels.
I cautiously agree with you regarding Nuclear as they can be safe (just not in earthquake zones, areas subject to tsunamis, etc.) However, big picture, nuclear enjoyed subsidies as well. There is still a an elephant in the room with the safe disposal of the spent fuel that has been a litigious battle for storage at the proposed Yucca Mountain facility. There are your uninformed extremists in Nevada who get theie way with swing state politics.
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