Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dumb and dumber in America: Woodland, NC is an example of public policy being derailed by what Americans believe but isn't so

This is a choice example of scientific ignorance in the public arena.

The community of Woodland, NC has done an about face on solar farms. Here are essential snippets from the local newspaper (h/t Daily Kos).

The Planning Board had recommended the property be rezoned to allow Strata Solar Company to build a solar farm off U.S. highway 258.

Three other solar farms were previously accepted by the town council, with one now in the process of installing solar panels.

The solar farm companies are seeking placement around Woodland because it has an electrical substation nearby where the solar power generated by the panels can be added to the electrical grid.

So far so good. But the most recent Planning Board recommendation came under fire from Woodland residents at a Town Council meeting.

During the public comment period preceding the rezoning vote, citizens expressed distrust and fear of the solar panels.

Jane Mann said she is a local native and is concerned about the natural vegetation that makes the community beautiful.

She is a retired Northampton science teacher and is concerned that photosynthesis, which depends upon sunlight, would not happen and would keep the vegetation from growing. She said she has observed areas near solar panels where vegetation is brown and dead because it did not receive enough sunlight.

She also questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her that solar panels didn’t cause cancer.

Bobby Mann said he watched communities dry up when I-95 came along and warned that would happen to Woodland because of the solar farms.

“You’re killing your town,” he said. “All the young people are going to move out.”

He said the solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland.

The solar company, Strata, gave it their best shot.

Strata then addressed the council and audience. Several company representatives ... spoke about solar farms.

They ... said the solar farm would be have substantial amounts of vegetation.

solar farms are proven to be safe and exist next to homes ... there are no negative impacts on property values statewide.

... the only sunlight the panels use to generate power is that which hits them directly.

“The panels don’t draw additional sunlight.”

“There are no toxic materials on site ... This is a tried and true technology.”

In spite of Strata's facts, the Manns and their fellow science denialists carried the day.

Mayor Kenneth Manual called for the vote, which was 3-1 against rezoning the land (the mayor only votes in case of a tie).

The council later voted for a moratorium on future solar farms.

I leave it to you to recreate the Mann's narrative imposing coherence on: brown vegetation, cancer, and sunlight-sucking solar panels. You might want to avoid people wearing dark clothes for fear of not getting your fair share of Arizona sunlight. Or wear dark clothes.

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