top of page

Spurious Claims Support Solar Moratorium

I must refute bogus claims made by some St. Joseph County (IN) Council members with objective arguments. They are seeking a moratorium on commercial solar energy, yet many stated reasons for axing solar energy are falsehoods, misconceptions, or misleading suggestions. Only one popular argument given by the council member is subject to debate, for it addresses that elusive goal for which a County Council should strive--quality of life.

My comments here, coupled with my comments at SJC Solar Moratorium Degrades Clean Energy Future, address Bill No. 76-24. The County Council will introduce the bill under item 14, New Business, on the agenda for July 9, 2024.

Below are nearly verbatim excerpts from a council member's email in reply to a constituent who opposes the proposed moratorium. The bullet items are my initial response. Because of time constraints, I didn't provide all sources or citations, but I can find them if thoughtful council members want to talk and base their moratorium decisions on objective claims.

"Solar is not efficient."

  • How is it not efficient? Actually, it' so efficient--transferring clean and limitless plasma into usable energy-- that investors are clamoring to install it and consumers are eager to buy it.

  • If the solar industry and buyers of solar find it efficient enough, who are we to tell businesses and buyers their financial acumen is not sufficient for your tastes?

  • Farmers use quality land to grow corn for ethanol; yet, compared to an acre of corn, an acre of solar panels will yield about 30 times as much energy. Solar is vastly more efficient.

  • Argument reminds me of a quote attributed to Henry Ford: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." This comment is seeking a faster horse.

  • This argument has no bearing on whether you should kill commercial solar in St. Joseph County (SJC).

"Not enough power for data centers coming into the grid."

  • A combination of renewable energies could power most of our economy if it were built.

  • Singular solar installations don''t need to power singular data centers. A single tank of gas probably doesn't power a single month of driving a car.

  • Until we dial down consumption, we will need more energy production.

  • If it's not enough to single-handedly power data centers, what unhealthy alternative are you asking everyone to suck up?

  • Fossil fuels are low hanging fruit, delivering a bundle of energy in a small package. But the downsides of fossil fuels are going to crush our descendants. Solar can deliver just as much if the infrastructure existed.

  • This argument has no bearing on whether you should kill commercial solar in SJC.

"In the Midwest, the sun isn't always shining."

  • Of course not, but what an absurd argument. Because one mode of clean energy cannot compete 100% in energy delivery of fossil fuels--which spews fine particulate matter into the air and pollutes the land and water with coal ash--you turn your back on solar which has no air pollution, no sound pollution, no light pollution, vastly less water pollution, and all the other upsides that lead to quality of life?

  • You want perfection at the expense of very good.

  • Often, when the sun is shining is when peak demand occurs, with much of the excess solar production meeting the spike in air conditioning. Private and solar capacity lessens the need for utilities to build stand-by diesel generators that would otherwise have to be paid for by all ratepayers.

  • If annual percentage of sunlight is so damning, why is it the fasting growing element of the energy sector?

  • Other countries with less annual incoming sun have much greater levels of solar participation than here. It works.

  • This argument has no bearing on whether you should kill commercial solar in SJC.

"They're pushing for nuclear now in Germany because renewables aren't enough."

  • Of course renewables are not enough yet. You won't allow the building of a clean energy economy, whereas fossil fuels had centuries to embed into the global landscape.

  • Nuclear is a renewable energy.

  • This argument has no bearing on whether you should kill commercial solar in SJC.

"Germany 'restarted' coal and nuclear because solar couldn't cut it."

  • What? Have you heard about the war in Ukraine, and Russia cutting off Germany's energy supply? Please tell me this isn't your argument for a moratorium in St. Joseph County.

  • Germany has so much solar capacity that it's energy market got saturated, driving prices down. It needs to address energy storage and the grid itself to keep prices from fluctuating.

  • This argument has no bearing on whether you should kill commercial solar in SJC.

"Concerns about solar arrays consuming farmland and never returning to farmable state."

  • Large-scale solar arrays can be like land banks. They preserve the soil for decades and prevent rogue counties from paving over it to make concrete pads for data centers and warehouses.

  • Solar farms are insurance against egregious consumerism and environmental malfeasance.

  • For the duration of the solar site, the soil remains idle, regenerating itself with layers of natural growth--pollution-free, pesticide-free, making no demands on the aquifer.

  • When it's time for decommissioning--for which the county admittedly must have a pot of money secured in advance--the company dismantling pulls up the posts. There's no pavement, parking lot, concrete pad, or decades of site spillage to clean.

  • Farmland isn't all about crops. Animals graze there, bees pollinate there. Solar farms can facilitate that, not lessen it.

"Concerned materials not being recycled."

  • Solar panels are not zero waste, and recycling can be complex. Currently materials like glass, aluminum, and even plastic are harvested. Other materials are reclaimed less, but the practice and the recycling technology is evolving favorably.

  • At the Honeysuckle solar project in New Carlisle, IN, when panels arrived damaged from transportation or defects they were sent directly back for recycling.

  • Have you visited the largest solar installer in the Midwest? Located here in South Bend, Inovateus Solar's Stewardship & Sustainability is a model on how solar can be done well. Download their Sustainability Report.

  • The end-of-life process for and impositions of solar panels are not well established. What is well established is the impositions of degradation from the alternative fossil fuels.

  • Companies that decommission get significant revenue from extracting all of the wiring, too, both above and below ground. And every cable location is known and shown on the blueprints, with much of it in well-defined wiring corridors.

  • Hearing advocates of fossil fuels dismiss the benefits of solar because of solar energy's vastly smaller environmental impact is laughable.

  • No technology is perfectly clean, but solar unquestionably outperforms fossil fuels in environmental regards.

"The destruction and impairment of wildlife."

  • The comment in the email doesn't identify the specific wildlife, so to what are you referring? And how does your alleged level of destruction and impairment from solar even come close to that of fossil fuel extraction.

  • Solar owners can only boast about a solar spill, which you can compare to, say, an oil spill on land or water.

  • I've heard claims of bird kills, but there is a dearth of peer-reviewed data on bird deaths from solar and little scientific monitoring so far.

  • Global warming is likely the greatest threat to the global bird and wildlife population. Solar doesn't contribute to the loss; rather, it challenges that trajectory.

  • Argonne researchers have suggested there have been up to 138,000 bird deaths attributable to solar farms each year. Other sources suggest hundreds of millions of birds die from crashing into buildings and windows annually; cars kill 100-300 million more; fossil fuel plants kill about 15 million, and cats kill over a billion birds each year.

  • Some of the hype over bird deaths is from two unique solar installations in California--not the typical solar design with flat panels collecting sunlight but a system of mirrors concentrating light on a suspended boiler.

  • Meanwhile, pesticides put on farmland aren't issue-free. They leach into the soil where a vast soil-biota exists. Water runoff carries farm fertilizers into waterways, resulting in algal blooms that cause large fish kills.

  • Fertilizers also require huge amounts of energy to produce and cause harm to the workers exposed to them.

"Panels are ugly. Our eyes appreciate pastoral views."

  • Aha! Something legitimate worth discussing, as appearance affects quality of life for some people.

  • Up to now, most of the assertions contain falsehoods, misconceptions, or misleading suggestions.

  • Visual appearance is subjective and open to debate.

  • You see ugly panels from energy production. Frankly, I don't think the power plants and smokestacks belching pollution and all their light at night and coal ash pits are all that attractive.

  • With solar I see cleaner air.

  • I see people who care about our environmental future, and panels reflect their concern for fellow humans. Solar arrays are not perfect, but they're not dismissive toward our descendants like you get with ongoing and expanding fossil fuels.

  • I see innovation and imagination. I see recognition of a climate crisis that should be confronted soon, not a mindset of being incapable of change and adaptation.

  • With panels I see us not kicking the can down the road, as with a moratorium.

  • County ordinances do address visual issues somewhat with required landscaping and setbacks. In some cases the requirements are extreme. For example, a 500 foot setback for a solar panel that is legally limited in height. Such large land cutouts on irregularly-shaped farmland restrict many landowners from earning lease income.

I welcome civil dialogue after the July 9 Council meeting.


Commenting has been turned off.
Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page