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They Razed Paradise And Put Up A Solar Farm


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Issues & Insights

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone? – “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchell

We’ve been told with clockwork regularity that in order to prevent a baked planet, we have to generate our electricity through renewable sources, primarily wind and solar. Set aside for now the legitimate questions about the reliability and cost of both and consider this: Do we even have enough room for the equipment necessary to produce enough power to meet the demand?

Both wind and solar power are voracious land hogs. Wind or solar can need 90 to 100 times more acreage than a natural gas plant to generate the same amount of electricity. And let’s not forget the large swaths of land that will have to be appropriated, and in heavily forested areas clear cut, to build transmission lines that connect solar and wind farms to distribution lines.

Yes, there is a lot of open land in this country on which to build wind and solar projects. But don’t think the NIMBYs are going to let the renewables sites just roll over without not just a fight but a war.


A recent report from Mass Audubon and Harvard Forest says that it’s possible that solar can grow at the same time that “the nature we have” is protected. But before they can make their case, the authors had to acknowledge:

The current trajectory of deployment of large ground-mount solar is coming at too high a cost to nature. Concerns about impacts to nature are partly responsible for erosion of public support for solar, with many communities now seeking to slow or entirely stop new ground-mount solar systems.

The point was later reiterated:

Under current siting practices, thousands of acres of forests, farms, and other carbon-rich landscapes are being converted to host large-scale solar.:snip:

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