The Woodland, North Carolina, town council voted to block a zoning change that would have permitted development of a new photovoltaic (PV) facility after some local residents expressed fears the solar panels would absorb too much sunlight and prevent nearby plants from growing.
According to an article published in the Roanoke-Cowan News-Herald, the 3-1 vote blocked development of a PV facility that would have been constructed by the Strata Solar Company.
Three other solar farms have already been approved. Strata had proposed using 48 acres of a 207-acre lot for PV arrays, but it needed a zoning change to move ahead with the project. Instead, the council voted against the rezoning plan, and later in the meeting voted for a complete moratorium on solar farms, the newspaper said.
Cecil Harkey, the only councilor who voted in favor of the zoning change, said that his research suggested the solar panels wouldn’t pose any threats to people or nearby vegetation, but that’s not how some Woodland residents saw it.
“There was a lot of discussion,” he said by telephone. “There was a large crowd there that night. One lady had gone around with a petition, and probably half the adults in town had signed the petition. That was taken into consideration.
“Scared — they were just scared of the pollution,” he continued, “that it was going to cut out the rays of the sun in the surrounding area to where vegetation would not grow. Some of those living close to the [solar] farm, their property would be affected and kill their trees and flowers. These were some of their concerns and expressions that were made.”
Residents also were concerned the new solar farm proposed by Strata would be an eyesore. “That would be one of the first things you’d see coming into town,” Harkey said. “They were going to buffer that with trees and shrubs and I don’t think that would have been a big problem, but that’s just my opinion.”
The Woodland town office referred questions to the mayor, Kenneth Manual, but he was not available to discuss either the Strata proposal or the solar farms that have already been approved. Strata representatives who attended the town council meeting did not return phone calls.
Lower property values also a worry
A nearby electrical substation makes Woodland attractive to solar developers because the PV panels can be hooked up to the grid easily.
But at least one resident said that her home was now surrounded by solar farms, and that the facilities had lowered the value of the property, the News-Herald reported. Jean Barnes, who had circulated the petition before the council’s vote, asked the council to put any solar farm proposals in the future out to referendum.
Objections also came from Bobby and Jane Mann. Jane Mann, identified as a retired science teacher, said she was concerned the panels would interfere with photosynthesis and keep nearby plants from growing. She also was concerned by the high number of cancer deaths in the area, and said no one could assure her solar panels were not the cause.
“I want to know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I want information. Enough is enough. I don’t see the profit for the town.”
The solar panels will “suck up all the energy from the sun”
Bobby Mann said that the solar farms were “killing” the town. “All the young people are going to move out,” he told the council. Solar farms, he said, would “suck up all the energy from the sun” and convince business not to move into town, the newspaper said.
Strata did its best to convince the council otherwise. “There are no negative impacts,” said Strata’s Beth Trahos. “A solar farm is a wonderful use for a property like this.” Brent Niemann told town residents that solar panels would not “draw additional sunlight” and were not toxic.
Their arguments weren’t enough.