In a strange, but unfortunately true turn of events, the North Carolina town of Woodland as rejected any more solar farms due to resident concerns. After being presented with a petition of resident signatures, the town council voted 3-1 to put a stop to a new solar farm.
The Roanoke-Chowan News Herald reports that Woodland has already approved three solar panel farms, and the area is popular with solar companies because it has an electrical substation, making it a logical choice.
Residents who spoke at the town meeting were fearful of future solar panel installments, and blamed the farms for cancer, a lack of plant growth, and for young people moving away.
One resident, who expressed fear of new solar farms was Jane Mann, a retired science teacher. She believed the solar panels were responsible for an increase in cancer rates, and noticed that plants shriveled up and died in areas surrounding the panels. She believes the panels obstruct photosynthesis in plants. Another resident, Bobby Mann, inexplicably claimed that the panels would cause the community to die, and all the young people would leave if more solar panel farms were approved.
Also, Mann claimed that solar panels “suck up all the energy from the sun,” causing businesses to avoid Woodland.
Solar panels generally pose minimal health risks after installation. The biggest risk comes in the mining and manufacturing process. A report by the state of Oregon notes the risks involved solar arrays.
“There is little risk that the small amounts of semiconductor material present can be released into the environment.”
The report asserts that in the case of a fire, hazardous fumes can be released, however the risk is not alarming due to the short duration of fires and the high melting points of the panels themselves.
The company seeking to build the solar array, Strata, had several representatives at the council meeting. They attempted to explain how solar energy works and changed the plan to set the array further back from the road than originally planned, but residents weren’t having it.
The false dichotomy of this logic is astounding. Firstly, I-95 began construction in the late 1950s — nearly 60 years ago, and has little to do with what is going on now. It was constructed in an area 30 miles away, which naturally would draw people away from smaller towns that aren’t situated near it. A solar panel array built in the town is not a highway. It does not cause people to leave in the same manner. On the contrary, solar panels may actually attract businesses due to the reduced energy costs associated with renewable energy.
What is most troubling about the Mann’s argument is the fact that Jane Mann herself is a retired science teacher. She spent a portion of her life teaching the children of the area science. But just in case that Mrs. Mann forgot her subject, a quick refresher might be in order.
- The Sun is a million times larger than the Earth.
- The amount of solar energy that hits the Earth in just one hour is enough to provide the entire planet its energy needs for an entire year (so much for those solar panels sucking up all of its energy).
- A whopping 1,000 watts of energy potentially hits the Earth’s surface per hour, per square meter, depending on where you are and the angle of the terrain.
Despite Strata’s attempts to educate the town residents, and despite their addressing general safety and property value concerns, the skeptics won out. The town council also voted to put a moratorium on all future solar panels and arrays.
[Photo: Scott Olson/Getty]