Environmentalists have created a monster. They have engendered a climate of hysteria by hyping risks for everything from global warming to coal ash, water quality to environmental racism. They have mastered the art of throwing every conceivable objection against the wall to see what sticks. They have perfected the strategy of question, question, delay, delay, obstruct, obstruct, sue, sue. Now, in the Spotsylvania County controversy over a solar farm, their tactics are biting them in the hindquarters.
After a nine-hour meeting at which more than 100 people spoke, reports the Virginia Mercury, the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors delayed yesterday a decision on whether a 500-megawatt solar facility will be built in the western part of the county.
A large majority of the hundreds of people packing the Spotsylvania County auditorium opposed the sPower project, which would be the largest east of the Rocky Mountains and would almost double the amount of solar energy Virginia is currently producing. The concerns expressed seem utterly without merit, as far as I can tell. Yet hundreds of Spotsylvania citizens have convinced themselves that the 6,000-acre solar farm with 1.8 million solar panels would pose a hazard to their community.
Despite nearly 6,00 pages of documentation on the project, says Virginia Mercury, citizens insist that questions remain about nearly every facet of the project from its effects on erosion, human health, economic viability, and impact on property values of people living nearby.
“This project, as planned, is much too close,” said Spotsylvania resident Pamela Rizzo, while Vivian Stanley, who said she represented “We the People,” characterized it as a “solar monster” that was a threat to the “lives and welfare” of the people of the Livingston district, where the facility would be located.
“How much poison does it take to cause cancer?” she asked the supervisors in the first of several impassioned speeches, alluding to sPower’s plans to use cadmium telluride panels for about 30 percent of its installation. The opposition has claimed that cadmium telluride poses a threat to human health if it leaches into water sources.
The fear of cadmium telluride seems especially misplaced. The chances of cadmium, a heavy metal, leaking into the groundwater are nil, even in the event of breakage or melting in a fire. Even if the panels were pulverized, sPower says, the cadmium would not leach. The only away for the cadmium to leach would be through “aggressive extraction” involving the crushing of panels into millimeter-scale pieces and agitating it in an acidic solution — a scenario that in no way mimics a real-world environment.
The fear of cadmium leaching is irrational. But the fear of heavy metal contamination of groundwater has been stoked by environmentalists who have insisted that Dominion Energy spend an additional $1 billion or more to move coal ash to synthetically lined landfills with no consideration to the minimal risks posed by the EPA-approved solution Dominion originally proposed. The risks associated with solar panels appears to be even more miniscule than with coal ash, but Virginians have been conditioned to believe that “toxic” metals are dangerous, they are oblivious to the concept that there might be acceptable levels of risk, and they don’t want to be those metals anywhere near them.
Other fears are likely to be exaggerated, such as the claim that the solar farm will harm residential property values. Why that would be the case, if the solar panels are screened from view, eludes me. But ask yourself, where would the sPower foes have gotten such an idea? Perhaps from environmentalists’ arguments that natural gas pipeline would harm property values by impacting viewsheds.
Virginia needs more solar power, which is a clean, renewable, and economically competitive energy source. Everything I’ve read indicates that Virginia can incorporate up to 30% intermittent energy sources like solar and wind without undermining the reliability of the electric grid. It would be a terrible development if foes succeeded in blocking this project. I’m not saying that every big energy or infrastructure project proposed in Virginia is well conceived, but I will say this: We are fast approaching a time when it will be impossible to build any new infrastructure in the Old Dominion, and that includes projects espoused by environmentalists like solar. If sPower can’t build a project so limited in scope and impact, who can build anything anywhere?There are currently no comments highlighted.