There’s more to the North Carolina solar town story: they have already approved other solar farms, one of which is almost built, and they approved the one in question once it was moved to a different location. And there are real reasons they are concerned about solar farms; reasons which solar developers can address (unlike pipeline companies).
At the December 3, 2015, Town Board Meeting, after listening to all of the concerned parties, the town board voted to maintain the RA zone for the fourth proposed solar farm site. The town council’s decision to deny the rezoning of this fourth proposed solar farm site was due, in part, to a circulated petition by a group of concerned town citizens opposing the change of zoning for this fourth site. The citizens opposed the site location, because to grant the zoning request would create a situation in which the town would be completely surrounded by solar farms.
It should be noted that the solar companies have been gracious and were willing to accommodate and address any and all concerns from the town board and citizens of Woodland and for that, the town board is greatly appreciative.
The Town of Woodland welcomes new industry and business to locate here in Woodland, North Carolina. The town board and the citizens of Woodland are supportive of new technologies and industry growth. The approval of three solar farm sites located within the zoning district of Woodland is clear evidence of this fact. The Town of Woodland will continue to explore opportunities to develop partnerships with industries, businesses and the citizens of Woodland, in an effort to foster further economic, commercial and residential development.
Yet there’s more. As I mentioned previously, there are real issues in many small towns like Woodland of young people moving out because of few economic opportunities. David Roberts, Vox, 18 December 2015, The North Carolina town that’s scared of solar panels, revisited,
The land that Woodland is being asked to rezone is currently zoned residential and agricultural. Rezoning it to allow solar panels amounts to admitting that it’s currently going to waste. People aren’t going to be living or farming there. The town is not going to grow — not now, not any time soon.
“How would you and your family like to live in the middle of a solar farm, surrounded on all four sides?” said [Woodland town council member Ron] Lane, a retired elementary school principal. “We have approved three solar farms on almost three points of the compass. This would have completely boxed the town in with solar farms.”
The land around the town, once its future, is being industrialized by a company from Somewhere Else, for the profits and benefits of people Somewhere Else, as Woodland continues to struggle. It’s not hard to understand the angst, or why, despite pleas from the solar company (Strata), the Woodland town council not only blocked the farm, but voted through a moratorium on future farms.
Well, that moratorium part seems like maybe it idn’t really happen, given the town’s update (see above).
The Vox article suggests a solution:
Many voices in the industry urge renewable energy industries to do better, more proactive PR, and there’s something to that. But PR can only do so much. One clear result from both studies and experience is that local communities are more amenable to renewable energy when they have some financial stake in it, some sense of ownership and benefit. (John Farrell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is great on this stuff.)
For projects where there is some sort of “benefit sharing,” where the community has some stake in the success of the project, NIMBY complaints all but disappear. This is one reason why renewable energy has spread so fast, and enjoys such enormous public support, in Germany: fully half the country’s renewable energy is owned by individuals and co-ops, not big companies or utilities. (In Denmark, 75 percent of wind power is owned by citizen cooperatives.)
And that’s completely doable. Unlike fracked methane pipeline boondoggles, which scalp many acres of countryside using eminent domain, solar farms can sell shares to local people, or be developed by local cooperatives, and they can’t be built without local zoning approval.
Go Woodland! Go local solar!