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North Carolina Town That Defeated Solar Plan Talks Back (newsobserver.com) 336

mdsolar writes with news that city officials in Woodland, North Carolina have taken issue with being ridiculed by the internet and want to set the record straight. According to the article: "Usually what happens in Woodland stays in Woodland, a town 115 miles east of Raleigh with one Dollar General store and one restaurant. But news of the Northampton County hamlet's moratorium on solar farms blew up on social media over the weekend after a local paper quoted a resident complaining to the Town Council that solar farms would take away sunshine from nearby vegetation. Another resident warned that solar panels would suck up energy from the sun. As outlandish as those claims seem, town officials say the Internet got it wrong."
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North Carolina Town That Defeated Solar Plan Talks Back

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  • Surrounded? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DogDude ( 805747 )
    They didn't want to be surrounded by solar farms? Why not? That still doesn't make any sense.
    • I can understand people wanting to put appearance before functionality. While a solar farm is a great resource, if it has a negative impact on people, then it needs to be rethought. It is not unlike someone getting upset because a 24 story high-rise is going to be blocking their view of the sea. One possible solution is simply to use existing roofs to install the solar panels?

    • Re:Surrounded? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @03:51PM (#51132113)

      How about because being surrounded by solar farms is about as aesthetically pleasing as being surrounded by parking lots.

      • Re:Surrounded? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @03:59PM (#51132185)

        Only when done wrong. There are dozens of solar farms near me and I barely see them. The great thing about solar farms is 50 foot of trees at the edge of the property completely hides them from ground level.

        • Re:Surrounded? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @04:10PM (#51132269)

          Since they already have three solar farms, I guess they are probably well familiar with what they look like, and have decided they don't want a fourth one in that spot.

        • But wouldn't fifty-foot trees also affect how much sunlight they get in the mornings and afternoons? Y'know, shadows and such.

          I suppose it isn't that big of a deal if you're talking about several acres of land...

        • by cruff ( 171569 )

          The great thing about solar farms is 50 foot of trees at the edge of the property completely hides them from ground level.

          If you live in a region where 50 foot trees grow naturally, then they are a reasonable sight block. In parts of the world, those trees would require assistance to survive, possibly using water that isn't available locally.

        • Re:Surrounded? (Score:4, Informative)

          by DriveDog ( 822962 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @04:18PM (#51132333)

          Exactly.

          How many have even been "down east" North Carolina? I find acres of PVs no less appealing to look at than acres of tobacco, dilapidated barns and silos, rusting mobile homes, chicken or pork processing plants, or mega warehouses. If it was either soybeans or PVs, that's one thing. But it's often just idle fields or something worse, like tobacco or enormous distribution warehouses. Has the town ever limited cell phone towers or rotting vehicles permanently planted in front yards?

          • Re:Surrounded? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @04:27PM (#51132419)

            This may surprise you, but different people find different things pleasant to look at. Some people LIKE looking at acres of tobacco, dilapidated barns and silos, etc. You can even buy artwork of such things. Some people LIKE to look at big cities, other people think they are as ugly as ugly can be. Who are you to be deciding what the town should or should not be looking at?

      • In that case the correct solution is to make a good offer to buy the land rather than block land owners from exercising their property rights.

        • Re:Surrounded? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @05:26PM (#51132927)

          In that case the correct solution is to make a good offer to buy the land rather than block land owners from exercising their property rights.

          Pretty sure that only one State in the Union offers honest-to-goodness property rights, and it certainly isnt North Carolina. Its Texas.

    • Re:Surrounded? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cirby ( 2599 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @03:53PM (#51132125)

      Because solar farms, while really cool-looking from the air, look like miles and miles of supporting hardware from ground level.

      The plan is basically "turn a farm community into an island surrounded by several square miles of industrial plants." People move to the country to get away from such things, it's not surprising that they're resisting having their property values trashed because someone decides to take a bunch of government cash to build the darned things.

      • So you're saying the farmers want an HOA for everyone?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by toadlife ( 301863 )

        ...having their property values trashed

        There is no existing value to trash. That's why the companies want to install solar farms there.

        • There is no existing value to trash. That's why the companies want to install solar farms there.

          Not true. The reason the companies have located solar farms adjacent to the town is to be close to a substation. There is plenty of cheap land out in the county, but they would have to run transmission lines.

    • Because of basic city planning? Surrounding yourself with solar power plants cause a break in zoning and can interrupt your tax base. Take a look at most small/medium sized towns, and check out just how severely the freeway segments them. Solar plant would be worse.

      I wouldn't even want three sides. One, maybe two sides at most.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They didn't want to be surrounded by solar farms? Why not? That still doesn't make any sense.

      Probably the same reason that people don't want to be surrounded by acres of parking lots or gravel-covered industrial zones.
      People who live in small towns often consider nature to have a beauty worthy of preserving.

      I am totally amazed at the fuckwits on slashdot that are shrieking "they hatez the solar because they rednecks" when this town probably has more solar energy panels installed than almost any other town in the country.

    • Because they would like to live to nice green pastures, forest, woods, and neighbors.

      Not everyone prefers the appearances of glass tables with metal structures.

      One of the big tradeoffs with Solar Farms is the amount of land they use. Which means cutting trees paths and less farm land to use. It isn't 100% green, they are still tradeoffs to concern. Going all solar in a town where the person is living in a field where there is just solar collectors isn't considered part of a nice life.

    • They didn't want to be surrounded by solar farms? Why not? That still doesn't make any sense.

      Having a solar farm right next to residential lots destroys property values. The residential lots are inside the city limits and taxable; the solar farms are just outside the city limits and are not.

      • It doesn't have to. If the houses adjacent to the panels received deeply discounted, or free power, it could make up for the lack of greenery, and balance out the loss in property value.
    • US should be building its solar farms out in the desert, not over farm land.
      Solar farms will grow anywhere, food cannot.
    • They didn't want to be surrounded by solar farms? Why not? That still doesn't make any sense.

      It makes perfect sense.

      Some people like or at least don't mind being surrounded by buildings, so they live in a city. Some people prefer to be surrounded by green scenery, or mountains or the ocean...so they live near these places.

      For anyone who wants to live somewhere nice, having a view of solar panels...never mind being effectively surrounded by them, would suck.

  • by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @03:44PM (#51132047)
    Tendentious article in local paper generates an Internet and social media lynch mob that gets all the important facts wrong.
  • Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. :-)

    • Story: Town Rejects Thing For Bad Reason

      Truth: Town Explains Its Bad Reasons For Rejecting Thing

      The town's reasons are bad reasons. The internet got this one right.

  • Costco and other Big Box stores such as Home Despot and Lowe's carry solar and some of them even offer installation. So why don't they cover their parking lots with panels? Among other things, it means that, no matter where you park, you're parked in the shade. In the summer, that's a godsend.

    • Because the support structure required to be able to park UNDER the solar panels is a massive expenditure.
    • Great idea, but they should cover the roof of the building with panels first (because the mounting system is cheaper since they don't need clearance for cars).

    • Well, could be because all the support for free-standing panels would create a nightmare trying to navigate the parking lot, and building a parking structure to put solar on top of would be prohibitively expensive?
  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @03:55PM (#51132145) Homepage
    So they claim it isn't the whole story, which seems fair. North Carolina in general has been very good about solar, and they've installed a massive amount in the state (to the point where they are running into problems with lack of storage during peak sunlight). However, the primary backlash was not so directed at the town as much as that one had many different people in the town saying really stupid things. Let's not forget that one of them was a retired science teacher. From the original article that started it all: http://www.roanoke-chowannewsherald.com/2015/12/08/woodland-rejects-solar-farm/ [roanoke-ch...herald.com]:

    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. 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."

    It sounds to me like this backlash is mainly pretty deserved. Even if they had legitimate reasons to say no to this new solar, it is clear that those were not the reasons articulated by the people in question.

    • whoa.. someone who actually read BOTH articles.. bravo good sir.
    • True, those plants were probably brown and dead from the heat island effect of solar power plants
      http://www.kcet.org/news/redef... [kcet.org]
      Thus she was just observing an effect and attributing it to the correct source for incorrect reasons.

    • It sounds to me like this backlash is mainly pretty deserved. Even if they had legitimate reasons to say no to this new solar, it is clear that those were not the reasons articulated by the people in question.

      so i can ask some random stranger around you why you did or didn't do something and take the answers as "your" reasoning? I mean seriously, for all you know whomever said those silly things could very well be tree huggers or even representatives of the corporation wanting to build out the solar farm

    • Worst detail: that was a SCIENCE TEACHER. Holy shit.

    • "North Carolina in general has been very good about solar" meaning there is quite a bit of capacity here and there were decent policies in place a few years ago, not that the current legislature and executive don't fight renewable any way they can, which they do.
    • ... the primary backlash was not so directed at the town as much as that one had many different people in the town saying really stupid things.

      "Many" different people? It's not altogether clear, but from the article it looks like something in the range of 2-3 different people saying stupid things. Now I know that that seems like a lot for a town with only 800 people, but I think we still have little right to judge the entire town based on a handful of morons. The problem is that when people read stories like this, they do not simply conclude that 2-3 people in that town are stupid. Rather, we jump to conclusions about the town and make sweeping s

      • "Many" different people? It's not altogether clear, but from the article it looks like something in the range of 2-3 different people saying stupid things. Now I know that that seems like a lot for a town with only 800 people,

        In my estimate, about 0.5% of any group of people are utter and total idiots. 2-3 out of 800 means this town is a good deal better than average :-)

        Just thinking about another article... Takes 200 other politicians to compensate for Donald Trump...

    • Erm... no (Score:4, Informative)

      by stomv ( 80392 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @04:56PM (#51132649) Homepage

      [North Carolina has] installed a massive amount in the state (to the point where they are running into problems with lack of storage during peak sunlight).

      North Carolina has on the order of 1,100 MW of PV installed (source [seia.org]. Duke Energy Progress (NC + SC) has a peak summer load of 13,232 MW for planning purposes. Duke Energy Carolina (NC + SC) has a peak summer load of 18,691 MW. The combined load -- because Duke Energy and Duke Progress (in North and South Carolina) are now a single jointly operated system -- is 31,923 MW. See 2013 DEP IRP Table 3-A [duke-energy.com] and 2013 DEC IRP Table 3-A [duke-energy.com] (pdfs). Duke has roughly 36,000 MW of generating capacity (Tables 8-D, row 5), of which ~15% is combustion turbines (Charts 8-E). CTs are fast ramp, and Duke has roughly 5,400 MW of CTs -- far more than enough to easily integrate 1,100 MW of PV distributed across its system. Duke Energy operating in North Carolina should have absolutely no trouble integrating the 1,100 MW of solar PV operating in the territory, on time scales of sub-second, 15 second, 5 minute, 15 minute, hourly, and daily operations. As Duke continues to retire coal units and build CTs and combined cycle (CC) gas plants, its ability to integrate PV will only increase.

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      North Carolina...are running into problems with lack of storage during peak sunlight.

      "Lack of storage" is an interesting way to explain the problem. Others would call the practice of charging well above market equilibrium, "price gouging."

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @03:59PM (#51132189) Journal
    The zoning board meetings are where the NIMBYs and BANANAs rule the roost. Someone turned over the rock and all these creepy crawlies are running away on seeing daylight. Since no one ever bothers to follow these meeting they use any handy excuse they can think of. Even now other than saying "internet" is wrong, they are not denying that the used the reported reasoning to deny the zoning permit.
    • The city in question already has 3 solar farms for their small population of 800 people. Are you doing any better?

      • Where? I didn't see any of them on google maps earth view.

        • by Ionized ( 170001 )

          built within the last few years, i suppose? you are aware that google maps earth view is not realtime, right? the average image on there is 3 years old, but i'm sure some are older.

          If you're really that interested in it, you can fire up google earth - it should reveal how old the satellite imagery is.

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      So I take it you would not object to anything that happens near your property? Want to build an open-pit mine? Go ahead! Want to build a giant Walmart? Go ahead! Want to build a trash burning facility? Go ahead!

      Or are you one of those people that think only YOUR concerns are valid, and everyone else who has any concerns is an idiot?

  • "Another resident warned that solar panels would suck up energy from the sun."

    Well, technically this resident got it right.

    They're just too stupid to understand that's kind of the fucking point of solar energy.

    Congratulations North Carolina. It's not very often that Florida gets a laugh. This would be one of them.

  • by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @04:09PM (#51132253) Homepage Journal

    Plants primarily use the Red and Blue portions of the EM spectrum. Could we build areas that harvest most of the Sunlight (especially Non-Red, Non-Blue frequencies) while supplying Plants directly beneath with enough overall light for growth? Many species of plants are quite shade tolerant. Does Corn for instance use all available light for growth or could lower levels still support near full growth?

    This might be a particularly attractive strategy in arid areas. Solar Farms might do double duty as green houses to hold in moisture which is at a higher premium than light in those areas for agriculture.

    • by Rinikusu ( 28164 )

      Work hemp into it somehow and the pro-legalization weedies will get right on that.

    • Solar energy is projected to be dirt cheap so using power from arid regions to grow plants in multistory structures using LED lights may become common. Such grow houses are already used for medical pot. Very cheap electricity may make the same happen for other less pricy crops as well. And yes, growlights have a tailored spectrum.
  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @04:12PM (#51132283)
    ... just that the Internet got it partially.

    .
    The things that the townspeople said were correctly quoted and, imo, properly ridiculed.

    .
    But the Internet was laughing so hard, that it was not able to get the entire story.

  • This is impressive. The North Carolina town that banned new solar farms because they were afraid they would soak up the sun sets the record straight and manages to sound even stupider.

    Heiniger also denounced solar energy as a government-subsidized boondoggle that is “highly inefficient at producing energy.”

    Solar farms are only less efficient than fossil fuel plants if you leave out the fact that you have to, you know, put fossil fuels in fossil fuel plants.

    • re: efficiency (Score:4, Informative)

      by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @05:24PM (#51132893) Journal

      Actually, the arguments that PV solar, as currently deployed in the USA, are largely a "government boondoggle" and "highly inefficient" are two really valid accusations with merit.

      IMO, like so many things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I invested in PV solar for my own house, at considerable expense. So no, I'm not a "hater" of the technology. But the only reason you see so much solar adoption right now is the artificial construct the government created to sweeten the economics of doing so.

      Right now, the company that installed my panels, as well as many of their competitors, are campaigning aggressively to make sure the Federal tax break for solar doesn't expire by the end of 2015, as it was originally scheduled to do. That's because it amounts to a full 1/3rd. of your total installation cost that's received back as a tax credit. People like me who buy one of these systems typically do so with the help of a "bridge loan" that's given for an amount roughly equivalent to this tax credit, with 0% interest for 1 year. The "plan" is, you'll use the loan to help cover the up-front cost of your installation, and then pay the bridge loan off before any interest is due on it, using your Federal tax refund you get the next year.

      Some states give back $1,000 or more, as well, as part of a solar rebate program or state tax credit. Typically, these rebates have a few hoops to jump through to qualify, including providing proof that you paid off the cost of your PV solar installation in full.

      If these credits disappear, the typical consumer who buys one of these systems is looking at shelling out approximately $34,000 for a system that might not even offset more than 60-70% or so of their total electric usage. At that point, it really becomes a questionable purchase. Because yes, they can probably run numbers and projections in Excel and crank out a spreadsheet that shows it will save you tens of thousands of dollars over its 25-30 year average lifespan. But a LOT can happen in 25+ years. Will you be living in the same place? Will a new technology come along that drives the kilowatt hour cost of electricity way down? Will the system's inverter(s) fail outside of warranty (or the company who made them goes out of business), adding thousands to your total cost of operation?

      Oh, and surely some people will bring up the additional "money maker" for having solar ... the solar reclamation credits (SRECs) issued in some states. Well, again, these are more artificial government constructs because they simply penalized the power companies in those states for not producing above a certain percentage of power from "green sources". In turn, the power companies get to purchase these SRECs to make up for their shortfalls, and that money goes back to people with PV solar installations, based on how much power the systems generate per quarter.

      I receive the SRECs in my state, and I'd say a typical check is around the $450-525 range. So sure, nice to receive those and they help make a better economic case for purchasing the system. But there's no guarantee what an SREC will be worth down the road. The more people who install solar, the more people there are generating SRECs in that state, and there are only so many a power company needs to buy to be compliant. Early adopters of solar typically got the best deal with SRECs, back when they were worth a lot more than today.

  • by CauseBy ( 3029989 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @04:19PM (#51132349)

    “How would you and your family like to live in the middle of a solar farm, surrounded on all four sides?” said Lane

    Um, a heck of a lot?

    Solar farms are silent, nonpolluting, and provide jobs. It's hard to think of a better neighbor than that. Maybe I could work there and walk to work. Sounds awesome. Please build one next to my house, then another one other side.

    Ultimately, he said, the Strata Solar project was not doomed by irrational fears. The photovoltaic panels were proposed just 50 feet from residential homes

    Oh noes! FIFTY FEET! That's super close! He'd better do something, or else pretty soon people might start attaching solar cells directly to their homes!

    I think the internet got this one right.

  • There should be forests, rivers, meadows, birds, etc. around us, but what we have are agriculture fields, power-lines, motorways, and now also batteries of solar panels.

    Just dry clothing outdoors on dry warm days, use economy lamps, heat (air-condition) a reasonable size house, and half of the existing electric generators could be stopped. Production energy by its economy is a cheap, clean, and reliable approach.
  • by Tighe_L ( 642122 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @04:37PM (#51132487) Homepage
    All those black or blue solar panels aren't 100% efficient, while they convert 1/5 of the sun's energy they absorb into electricity, the remaining 4/5 is emitted as heat. It nearly like taking those fields and paving them with asphalt, it is going to heat up the local area. Solar panels make sense on areas that are already black like a roof, but taking large undeveloped areas and installing panels you are just creating a large heat island. Let's not forget the reflections they make in latitudes further north where they are angled such that they reflect light into neighboring homes. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]
    • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @08:58PM (#51134277) Journal

      It's true that the panels aren't 100% efficient. What energy doesn't go out over the wires either gets absorbed, reflected, or grounded. Grounded? Yes, you could heat up the metal frames and that heat could find its way into the ground, which is usually a pretty good heat sink. That's probably negligible though. Much of the heat would get transferred to the air. Some would get reflected back--even though the panels are dark in visible light, infrared might be another matter.

      The real devil is in what the panels replace. You have to compare the panels to what they're replacing. Another poster said putting the panels in the desert would make things cooler. If you're covering sparse vegetation and hot rocks with panels, and taking out some energy in the form of electricity that makes sense.

      North Carolina isn't desert though. They're going to put those panels over land that probably used to be either woods, pasture, or fields full of some agricultural product. Plants can cool things down in a number of ways [nasa.gov] that might be more effective than the removal of energy in electrical form by panels. Aside from that, if the electricity is consumed locally it's a zero-sum game.

      I'm sure there are some more fine points I'm missing here; but the main point is that the equation is a bit more complicated than just a simple thermodynamic analysis of the panels.

Bringing computers into the home won't change either one, but may revitalize the corner saloon.

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