People Are Okay With Wind & Solar Installations In Their Neighborhoods, Studies Say

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Two recent studies reveal interesting progress in consumer acceptance of wind and solar installations in their neighborhoods. Even more significant is that the studies come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Can a growing trend toward the importance of renewable energy across all regions of the US really be taking place?

First, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll contained a fascinating revelation: the majority of people in the US say they wouldn’t mind fields of solar panels or wind turbines being built in their communities. More surprisingly, these respondents are part of a large pool of bipartisan voters.

Here’s the question: Would you be comfortable or uncomfortable if each of these were built in your community?

Here are the results.

Saying they’d be comfortable with a field of solar panels:

  • Overall = 75%
  • Democrats = 87%
  • Republicans = 66%
  • Independents = 72%

Saying they’d be comfortable with wind turbines:

  • Overall = 68%
  • Democrats = 79%
  • Republicans = 59%
  • Independents = 67%

Saying they’d be comfortable with a nuclear power plant:

  • Overall = 33%
  • Democrats = 25%
  • Republicans = 44%
  • Independents = 33% (Author’s note: I live quite near a nuclear power plant! Ouch.)

So why are the news headlines filled with stories about neighborhoods that are rabidly opposed to solar and wind? It seems small yet vocal groups of residents are voicing what’s known as the Not in my Backyard (NIMBY) thought process — and many of ideas are fueled (pun intended) by fossil fuel industry disinformation campaigns. Discrepancies exist between broad support for solar development at the state and national level and suspicion at the local level are all too common.

A 2022 MIT study identified 53 utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects that were delayed or blocked between 2008 and 2021 in 28 US states. Of the projects they studied, 34% faced significant delays and difficulties securing permits, 49% were cancelled permanently, and 26% resumed after being stopped for several months or years. The authors found that organized opposition groups use a variety of means to stop renewable energy projects including lawsuits, political campaigns, appeals to other levels of government including county and township, and direct political protest. Opposition groups sometimes form coalitions to block projects. Local opposition is often driven by residents whose concerns do not necessarily reflect a disapproval of renewable energy in general.

The MIT authors suggest that, if neighborhoods were more included in the decision making process and they saw a commitment to minimize real and perceived risks, opposition would reduce or cease. Additionally, the authors say that proponents should share whatever technical information they have and involve opposition groups early in project planning and impact assessment. Quick release of information infuses more trust on the part of key stakeholders.

A Second Study Shows Solar Doesn’t Affect Residential Property Values

Texas has more than 18,800 MW of installed solar, accounting for 11.9% of the total installed solar capacity in the US. Currently ranking second in installed capacity, Texas is well-positioned among nationwide solar leaders and is expected to continue to flourish as installed solar capacity grows by 4 GW over the next 5 years. So a study conducted by the Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation (CTEI), in partnership with the Advanced Power Alliance (APA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) about the impact of residential properties near utility scale solar facilities is timely.

The researchers note that, over the last decade, costs associated with solar production and installation have declined by more than 60%, so that “solar prices are proving as competitive as other forms of energy generation as well.”

The study analyzes 6 utility scale solar projects at various stages of development across a diverse geographic area in Texas spanning 4 counties. The analysis focuses on projects where the surrounding areas have contrasting land use types or where land use has been converted for the project (i.e., solar acreage previously used as rural residential). Projects of significant size, 100 MW or greater, were also selected as these have the “most significant potential viewshed impacts and drastically alter an area’s landscape.” Price per interior square foot, sales to price list ratios, and days on the market, which are all considered key indicators of real estate value, were compared to residential sales located further away. Sales were analyzed at varying stages of the project, including announcement and construction, to ascertain if any shifts occur during different phases.

Developers of utility scale solar projects typically plan for at least 100 MW of electricity production, which requires approximately 800 to 1,000 acres of land. It is not uncommon for several projects to exist on a single site. Projects may also extend over multiple properties; therefore, a project may extend across adjacent landowners’ properties.

The results? The analysis showed a robust and competitive market still exists for these nearby residential properties once solar projects begin development and after they are operational. Sale metrics in areas close to the solar projects were compared to sales located further from solar projects. Data showed the two areas trended similarly across varying locations, residential markets, and project stages. Market interviews with local market experts and agents associated with sales proximate to solar projects also confirmed the market trend results.

Further research into individual sales and interviews with local market players confirmed that the market participants were knowledgeable of the solar projects, and this knowledge did not have a negative impact on the sale price or marketing time.

Final Thoughts

Maybe it’s not a coincidence that more than half of clean energy projects that have been announced or moved forward since the Inflation Reduction Act passage are located in districts represented by House Republicans. At least $25.7 billion in new US clean energy factories are in the works, thanks in part to the subsidies in Biden-Harris administration’s landmark climate law. Most of these projects — and the jobs that come with them — are in traditionally conservative states and may be at least partially responsible for winning over more conservative workers in the US to solar and wind power.

Even though Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rejected federal money that could help his state to fight the climate crisis, it’s hard to argue that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) are revitalizing the US energy system by investing in American energy supply chains, clean energy job creation, emissions reduction, and consumer energy savings.

The effects are showing in perceptions of neighborhood solar and wind installations and land values where solar energy installations are nearby. The trickle down effects may not actually work as an economic theory, but they do seem to be happening as a result of climate investments.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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