Hecate Energy’s plans for a 500-acre solar farm in upstate New York were cut by 50% “after facing an outcry from some in the community who feared the installation would mar the bucolic setting,” reports the New York Times. (Alternate URL here.)
The Copake fight mirrors similar battles raging across the country in rural areas like Lake County, Oregon; Clinton County, Ohio; and Troy, Texas. Developers say industrial-scale solar farms are needed to meet the nation’s goals to mitigate the rise of climate change, but locals are fighting back against what they see as an encroachment on their pastoral settings, the loss of agricultural land and a decline in property values.

Until recently, most farms were built in the West, where abundant sunshine powers industrial-scale solar arrays and installations were farther away from sight lines. But now, with federal and state governments committing to a reduction in fossil fuels, joined by corporate giants like Amazon and Microsoft, the industry is seeking solar installations in areas where the calculus is more complicated… Improvements in the capabilities of the panels — including the development of so-called bifacial panels that capture the sun on both sides of a panel — allow for greater electricity generation in fewer panels, meaning a smaller footprint. Nonetheless, finding appropriate sites with sufficient sunlight, proximity to the grid and up-to-date infrastructure is challenging. Approximately 0.5 percent of U.S. land would need to be covered with solar panels to achieve the decarbonization goals proposed by the Biden administration in April, according to a study by the Energy Department. Urban settings usually lack enough space for significant projects; as a result, 90 percent of the suitable land sits in rural areas.

But even rural land is not entirely suitable. It needs to be in proximity to the electricity infrastructure that can add more power. The grade of land matters: Steeper slopes can be less efficient in the energy captured than flatter land. And wetlands are usually protected by federal or state law.

More important, development depends on owners willing to lease their property often for decades over the objection of neighbors.

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Source:: Slashdot