On December 3rd, 2015, the tiny North Carolina town of Woodland held a council meeting that would quickly bring it to the forefront of national scrutiny and social media mockery. In this council meeting, the town council voted to support a proposal that rejected zoning land for a solar farm. A little more than 100 miles east of Raleigh, the quotes that came out of that council meeting made Woodland sound like some of its citizens were living on a different planet.
According to the minutes of the meeting, during the public comments period, a few concerned citizens made rather outrageous statements and warnings about the dangers of solar power. One man worried solar farms will “soak up all of the energy from the sun.” His wife, a retired science teacher, voiced concerns that solar energy would negatively impact photosynthesis, killing plant life in the region. She also said that nobody could tell her solar farms do not cause cancer.
The problem for Woodland, and what thrust it into the heavy spin-cycle of news and social media, is that the council’s reasoning for rejecting zoning land along highway 258 was lost in the noise following the publication of those quotes. Woodland, you see had already approved three solar farms in the previous two years. One of those farms was almost complete at the time of the now infamous vote.
Woodland is attractive to companies who want to build solar farms because of two major reasons: 1) Cheap real estate. 2) Woodland has an electric substation, meaning solar power can easily and conveniently be added to the overall power grid in the area. With solar farms on three sides of the town, the council rejected the idea of being entirely surrounded by solar panels.
Certainly, the concerns voiced in the council meeting were well off-base and misinformed, but Woodland’s popularity with solar companies represents the strength and growth of the industry in North Carolina. The state now ranks fourth nationally in solar energy output and, according to The Huffington Post, is home to 161 companies employing over 3,100 workers in the industry (as of December 2015).
Solar energy will not steal away the sun or turn crops into withering brown dust. Solar energy will provide clean energy and cost benefits to homes and businesses and is a growing industry in the state and nationwide.