Thursday, January 19, 2012

Currently Researching: Solar Farms

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts going forward, just sharing my thoughts on what I'm currently looking into with regards to Sustainability, whether it's for work or just for fun. Today's research project is for my job.

I'm trying to find out what common questions and concerns people have about new solar farms, along with the answers available to address their concerns. This might be anything from the aesthetics and noise of solar arrays, to their impact on neighboring property values, to the effectiveness of solar power itself.

We're looking into building a solar farm here, and the idea is that (hopefully) my research will be able to help calm people's fears before they convince themselves and each other that this is a terrible idea. But in doing this research, I'm finding that there are way more questions out there than answers.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Energy Independence Alliance.
It seems that many people oppose the idea of a solar farm if one is proposed in their own community, and unfortunately there are very few facts easily available to assuage their fears.  Most of what I've found online are just discussion forums between concerned residents, fueling one another's apprehension.  Not surprisingly, I've also found tons of local news sources about potential solar farm projects that were shut down or seriously delayed before getting very far, simply due to neighbors' concerns.

It's amazing to me that NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) is able to win over the opportunity to develop a clean, renewable source of energy.

First of all, most of the concerns listed by neighbors are unfounded, for example people often bring up the worry that solar panels will be reflective and therefore blinding to drivers, when in fact the whole point of solar panels is to absorb the sun's energy, not reflect it, so the glare from these panels is quite minimal.  And of the concerns that may have some validity, I don't think the subjective eyesore of a solar farm is enough to outweigh its benefits, such as energy independence and carbon-and pollution-free electricity.

Hopefully, by addressing these concerns upfront when people first learn about the proposed solar farm here, we'll be able to avoid being yet another local news story about a solar farm that never was.

No comments: