STEVENS COLUMN: Fossil fuel fanatics holding back solar –

3 minutes, 33 seconds Read

Southern Indiana is determined to stay in the 1950s when it comes to electrical energy. Local public officials are reflecting the mindset of state officials — all genuflecting to the fossil fuel industry.

County planning commissioners and the county commissioners themselves are creating mind-boggling hoops to jump through for people wanting to install solar electric panels. Five Republican candidates for the governorship have come out foursquare for the coal industry and their clients, the utility companies.

Nevermind that the year 2023 was the hottest ever recorded on Earth, that 600 people in Phoenix died last year from heat, that the temperature got down to 103 degrees one July night in mild Algeria. We now understand that the heat will get you before the wildfires come your way.

The single biggest contributor to heat is the burning of oil, gas and coal. They create more carbon dioxide high in the air (CO2). This layer — at the proper thickness — keeps us relatively warm at night, but when the CO2 gets too hefty, too much solar heat gets contained because it can’t reflect back into space. This is the definition of climate change.

None of these facts ever broke the surface when the Clark County Planning Commission listened to protesters to a company that wanted to build photovoltaic panels (foto-vol-TAY-ic) on a sizable acreage. I could not make sense of their dissent.

“I would rather see cows and grass.”

“What about toxic stuff coming from the panels.”

“A county up north has 125 pages in their county regulations for this and we have only 35 pages.”

“How do you dismantle such a project after it ages?”

“It’s ugly.”

“It is taking away valuable farm land.”

I think I understand some of these views. Mainly I find they are NIMBY sentiments: Not In My Backyard.

Let’s understand a few things about solar electric panels. There are no moving parts. There is no sound. Hardly anything can break down. I have never seen a panel die physically. Ugly happened when we put up utility poles and sagging wires all over the place. Remember the ugly TV antennaes sprouting on all the roofs? How about those beautiful metal spikes called cell phone towers growing out of woods and meadows.

Forty-four years ago I bought some panels made basically from the same stuff they are made out of today. They are of little use now because each panel produced only 35 watts of power. I could only light a measly little lightbulb. Today the same sized panel produces at least 350 watts (ten times more) and costs about ten times less.

Photovoltaic electricity has come a long way and is getting cheaper and more efficient each year. It is now cheaper than most electricity produced by coal or gas. It doesn’t pollute. If hail were to break the glass shield, nothing would poison the grass around it.

New kinds of solar cell units are in the works. Some of them come in rolls like wallpaper. Some can practically be painted upon a surface. We are still scratching the surface.

When I hear that potential neighbors want setbacks of 1,000 feet or 650 feet, I scratch my head: why? Maybe if you require each of the four boundaries to have a very large grassy buffer zone, maybe the solar field will get squeezed down so small as to be unusable. Aha. Maybe a large setback is a backhanded way of saying No.

What I worry about is that people will just say to themselves that they are just happy with the way their air-conditioner can handle any added heat that might occur. This actually creates a serious feedback loop.

Cooling millions of homes requires more and more fossil fuel-driven power plants, which increases more CO2 in the air, which further raises the temperature that requires even more cooling. One day the blackout will come if we stay on our present course.

The mining and utility industries have been trying for decades to stifle the renewable energies with considerable success. Then they have the gall to say that because there is not enough generated wind and solar power, the transition away from coal cannot possibly succeed.

The supply of renewable energies will be at hand when the local Nimby and the fossil fuel fanatics remove the obstacles.

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

Similar Posts