Saturday, May 28, 2011

Editorial: Those nasty solar panels again

In today's "Solar panels cloud homeowners' futures," the unnamed Courier editor makes clear that he agrees with the slant in Jason Soifer's story yesterday (see below).

I have to wonder why the headline isn't "Neighbors cloud solar plant's future." Open land inside the town limits -- there's a lot of that in Chino Valley -- is to be the site of the kind of energy-production facility that every community in the country needs to secure the future. The owners are promising to put serious money into preventing the neighbors from seeing a clean, low-traffic, emissions-free facility. The setbacks are huge. Still, the neighbors are able to raise the specter of "reduced property values" and grind the whole process to a halt.

This is the same town that last week voted overwhelmingly to allow a KOA campground into another residential neighborhood, with its attendant traffic, noise, waste and water draw.

The editor concurs with the property-value argument, based on exactly zero research. Maybe there are people who would be put off by the idea of living next to a solar plant, but it seems awfully likely to me that they're far outnumbered by people who would prefer it. I'll happily put my name on that list.

The editor goes on: "it's unclear just how much of the 20 megawatts of power expected to be generated will stay local," implying it would therefore be worthless and clearly indicating that he has no clue how grid power works. (In a given electrical system, the power is everywhere at once, so it's both never "local" and always "local.")

In the end he dourly warns, "It could be your backyard next." First, editor, it's not their backyards. It's adjacent property. It's clear the editor would prefer to have the property adjacent to his occupied by random people, but for me the prospect of a solar plant behind my property says peace and quiet -- no barking dogs, no midnight screaming matches, no revving engines or gangster rap, no creepy drums full of unknown liquids, no crop spraying, no industrial noise or dust, no screaming children, no crazy teenagers, no target practice. I'd love to see a line of trees.

The arguments against it are so nonsensical I have to consider that some see solar power as a political threat. We're on a sinking ship, and these people want to toss the lifeboats overboard. And here we see the editor, the supposed champion of renewable energy, pitching in to help them.


Zig E. said...

Not long ago the county board of supervisors nixed a plan to just look at the area to evaluate the potential wind resources. Again a couple of "neighbors" complained about the "eye sore" it would create. The plan to just test was shut down before it could even start. The NIMBY attitude on this issue leaves me shaking my head particularly as the wind is now currently clearing my yard of those weeds that everybody also concerns themselves with. Typical of the American attitude of "I want - I want" but I want someone else to pay for my wants.

Steven Ayres said...

I see a lot of missed opportunity in this. By handling the project in the traditional manner, APS has pissed off the neighbors. Had APS gone to the neighbors and offered them a little piece of the action, I imagine we'd be seeing a quite different result. Winning stakeholder buy-in is basic to any business deal, but I think we have to start widening our definition of "stakeholder."

birther t. bagur said...

Agree Steven. I have been doing some environmental work lately, and some of it involved open pit mining in developing countries. I'm not saying it is wrong or right, but the general way a mine gets developed without local opposition is that they hire someone from every family in the area. It ends up that there are a lot of people who get a paycheck for standing around, but it creates goodwill. Even a tiny bit of goodwill, like coupons or something would change the climate.
That said, I now live on the East Coast, and there isn't a lot of places to site new cell phone towers, so cell phone companies developed a mini antenna that is retrofit onto telephone poles, that is some sort of box shaped thing.
People flipped because they were an eyesore and ruined their views. Umm, I would point out that the actual telephone poles, lines, etc. are an eyesore, yet these people never complained until now!