by James A. Bacon
As nice as it would be to generate lots of power from the wind, one can understand why people don’t like wind turbines near them. They disrupt viewsheds. They make loud thrumming noises. They kills birds and bats. What I can’t understand is why people would object to having solar panels nearby. Solar voltaic panels don’t make noise. They lay close to the ground, and can be buffered by trees and shrubs. And they don’t harm wildlife.
More than 130 Chesapeake residents signed a petition calling upon Dominion Virginia Power, which is partnering with North Carolina-based SunEnergy1 to build a 241-acre solar farm, to relocate the facility to Dominion’s former coal plant along the Elizabeth River.
The planning commission recommended approving a conditional use permit for the projects. After postponing a hearing on the facility twice, the Chesapeake City Council is scheduled to air the issue tonight.
The solar farm, which would produce enough electricity for 5,000 homes, would occupy 241 acres. SunEnergy1 CEO Kenny Habul has said he has “bent over backwards” trying to accommodate residents, reports the Virginian-Pilot. He has invited them to help design a vegetative buffer that would surround the farm.
But the petitioners really aren’t concerned about views, judging by their petition. They’re mad at Dominion for operating a coal-fired power plant on the Elizabeth River, disposing fly ash on the site, and fighting a Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) lawsuit alleging that the ash ponds leached toxic minerals into the river. States the petition:
Rather than allowing Dominion to have its way and continue to abuse even more profitable Chesapeake acreage, let’s hold Dominion accountable for the wasted 257 acre site that is contaminating the Elizabeth River. If Dominion is being required by the federal government to implement solar energy, then Dominion should be forced to clean up the land they have destroyed, which creates a perfect site for the solar panels without additional destruction.
Bacon’s bottom line: Check these petitions on Change.org: Grassroots groups are objecting to solar farms around the world. Most decry the despoiling of rural land. It is true, solar panels are extremely land intensive. That’s why developers tend to locate solar farms in rural areas where land is cheap and localized impacts, such as they are, effect the fewest people possible.
But that’s not the problem with the Chesapeake petitioners. They are angry at Dominion for operating a now-defunct coal plant and coal ash ponds that allegedly polluted the river (Dominion denies that it is, but a judge will decide), and now they’re blocking Dominion from partnering in the construction of the cleanest form of electricity known to man. If they want to hold Dominion accountable for its coal ash, then they should raise money for the SELC. Blocking the solar facility on environmental grounds is cutting off their nose to spite their face.