Some Americans are old enough to remember when we could actually see our pollution.
When you went to Los Angeles, you saw smog. In Cleveland, you saw a burning river. All over the country, you saw smokestacks belching brown clouds of soot.
Now, though, the air we breathe and the water we drink are cleaner and purer than they’ve been in generations. So, we’re told, it’s the invisible pollution that’s coming for us now.
Carbon dioxide is the new enemy. And that’s a problem because we create carbon dioxide when we do just about anything — even exhale. If you manufacture something, you’re emitting CO2. If you drive somewhere, you’re emitting CO2. Americans are endlessly being chastised to emit less CO2, because otherwise, we’ll supposedly destroy the earth’s environment.
So a solar power generating facility should be popular with everyone. And lo and behold, a private company is now trying to build a major solar facility in the middle of Virginia. When complete, the facility would feed 500 Megawatts of electricity into the grid, with zero CO2 emissions.
“The Spotsylvania Solar Energy Center is a private economic development project on private land,” explains a spokesman for sPower, the company looking to erect the facility.
“It is a result of companies in Virginia wanting to power their operations with solar power produced in Virginia, including Microsoft’s data center in Mecklenburg County.” The entire project is being built without federal or state subsidies. So taxpayers will get the benefits of clean power and higher tax revenues, without expending tax dollars.
However, a few folks are pushing back. “They are concerned about toxic chemicals if this gets going,” spokesperson Lauren Appell said on FOX News. “They’re concerned about the potential for fires. If this gets — to put it in perspective, if this goes into effect, this is going to be within 50 feet of people’s homes.”
Those concerns are, to put it kindly, simply ludicrous.
The power company won’t be making anything other than electricity. So there’s no risk to nearby water. There’s no risk of extra heat since the facility will simply be converting existing sunlight into electricity. The project doesn’t require any extra power lines. It can connect to the existing grid, so it won’t require new infrastructure. It will operate silently, so it won’t disturb the neighbors.
The project is designed to protect nearby wetlands, with a designated setback throughout the facility. It has a program in place to handle water runoff, both during construction and during operation of the facility. The company reports that: “sPower hired an independent consulting firm to research and survey the existing wildlife and habitats within the Project Site. No threatened or endangered species were identified within the Project Site.” The company doesn’t expect it will need to use municipal water once the project is built. Any broken solar panels will be removed and replaced rather than fixed on site. In short, it should have minimal (if any) environmental impacts but will deliver clean power. A win-win.
One hopes that this is a simple case of NIMBY (not in my back yard) or even BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone). Yes, neighbors will see some disruption over the next year, as trucks come and go to the site. Just as they would see disruption with any construction project. But after that, the facility should run for decades with minimal upkeep and little (or no) disruption to the neighborhood.
Solar arrays produce electricity with zero CO2 emissions. That means we get the power we need to run server farms, cool homes and energize Tesla electric cars. What we don’t get is any additional CO2. That’s good for all of us.
Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 40years. @mbusler www.facebook.com/fundingdemocracy