March 30, 2022
You won’t read about this in the New York Times or the Washington Post. And you surely won’t see it reported by National Public Radio. But the rejections of big renewable projects are continuing all across the country and it appears that rejections of Big Solar projects are exceeding the Big Wind rejections. More on that in a moment.
First, the wind rejections. Last month, the Bureau of Land Management rejected an application for a 144-megawatt wind project that was proposed to be built in Lake and Colusa counties, which are located northwest of Sacramento. According to an article written by Elizabeth Larson of Lake County News, the BLM’s “denial was based on potential resource conflicts and the inadequacy of the information provided to the BLM to address these conflicts and to move forward with the environmental review.”
Larson also quoted Bob Schneider, a member of the Protect Walker Ridge Alliance, who said, “Molok Luyuk or Condor Ridge, also known as Walker Ridge is a special and spiritual place that tells a story of plate tectonics, diversity of plants and animals, Native American habitation over thousands of years.” Larson also reported that the same area had been targeted for a 60-megawatt wind project in 2010 by a Canadian company, AltaGas Income Trust. But that project was canceled in 2013.
The rejection is only the latest in a long string of rejections of Big Wind in California, including the unanimous vote last June by the Shasta County Planning Commission to reject the proposed 216-megawatt Fountain Wind project, which aimed to put up to 71 turbines standing 679 feet high near the town of Burney.
It’s notable that these rejections are occurring in California, which has some of America’s most-aggressive decarbonization policies, which include a requirement for 100% zero-carbon electricity and an economy-wide goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.
But it’s not just California. Earlier this month, according to Farm and Dairy, the Ohio Power Siting Board rejected two separate applications for “rehearing regarding the board’s decision to deny an application filed by Republic Wind to construct a 200-megawatt wind-powered electric generating facility in Seneca and Sandusky County.”
The rejections in California and Ohio are the latest examples of the years-long battle over wind energy siting. Adding these examples to the Renewable Rejection Database shows that at least 325 government entities from Maine to Hawaii have rejected or restricted wind projects since 2015. These rejections are occurring at the same time the wind industry is hoping to get yet another extension of the production tax credit, the lucrative federal subsidy that has driven the growth of wind energy over the past two decades. According to Axios, the proposed federal budget just released by the White House for 2023 does not include an extension of the tax credit.
While wind projects continue to face lots of local friction, the bigger news is the surging number of rejections of Big Solar. On March 8, David Ingram of NBC News published a piece titled “County by county, solar panels face pushback.” But Ingram buried the lede. His article began by quoting an academic from a large state university who said it was “kind of funny” that there was local opposition to big renewable projects.
But Ingram buried the lede. In the 13th paragraph of his article, Ingram finally got to the point. He wrote, “NBC News counted 57 cities, towns, and counties across the country where residents have proposed solar moratoriums since the start of 2021, according to local news reports, and not every proposed ban gets local news coverage. At least 40 of those approved the measures. Other localities did so in earlier years.”
Ingram explained that the land-use “battles have played out state by state and county by county, forcing communities to consider just how much they are willing to sacrifice to decarbonize the economy. They have also triggered a hunt for new locations to put millions of more solar panels.” He continued, “Local governments in states such as California, Indiana, Maine, New York, and Virginia have imposed moratoriums on large-scale solar farms, as a national push for cleaner energy has collided with complaints about how the projects affect wildlife and scenic views.”
I emailed Ingram three times asking to see the list of communities that have proposed solar prohibitions. He did not reply. Nevertheless, Ingram deserves credit. He’s doing the kind of analysis that has not been done by media outlets like the Washington Post and NPR, whose reporting, as I point out in a piece published earlier this month in Quillette, has been atrocious. In particular, the reporting done by Julia Simon, a reporter for NPR, has been, as I explained, “propaganda masquerading as news.”
Furthermore, if Ingram’s numbers are correct, solar rejections and restrictions may be happening more frequently than wind rejections. As I reported in January, at least 31 wind projects were rejected in 2021. If 40 Big Solar projects have been rejected since the beginning of 2021, that means that solar projects are meeting even more friction than wind projects.
The bottom line here is that the rejections of wind and solar are continuing apace and they provide yet further proof that land-use conflicts are the binding constraint on the expansion of large-scale renewables. Of course, that fact is seldom, if ever, mentioned by the academics and NGOs who are promoting the all-renewable mirage. As Ingram points out, a recent report by the research firm Wood Mackenzie and by the Solar Energy Industries Association listed “siting restrictions” as a key limiting factor on growth.
Thus, it is clearer than ever before that the expansion of the renewable industry in the U.S. depends on its ability to capture ever-increasing amounts of land in rural communities. And those communities are fighting back.
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