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Did this town REALLY ban solar panels for hogging sunlight?

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 12:29 PM - Stop us if you've heard this one: A town in the United States banned solar panels due to fears they would 'suck up all the energy from the sun.'

That's been the lead of most international coverage we've read about the town of Woodland, North Carolina, whose council rejected a new solar panel installation 3-1 after a public meeting this week, as well as approving a moratorium on future solar developments.

Going to the local paper, the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, resident Jane Mann, whom the News-Herald identifies as a retired science teacher, told the gathering solar panels prevent photosynthesis, keeping plants from growing. She also expressed concerns over cancer.

Another resident, Bobby Mann, also said he thought solar panels "suck up the sun" (as the paper reports it. The piece as a whole is a bit light on direct quotations). 

However, the Manns' outlandish concerns have dominated international coverage of the meeting, or at least the headlines, making it sound like the project was dismissed out of hand for staggeringly unscientific reasons. 

In fact, according to the News-Herald, Woodland has been quite good to solar power companies, such that three other solar farms have been approved, with one already under construction. 

And the proposed new installation wouldn't actually help the town much. The News-Herald says the proposed build site isn't actually within the town limits, so tax revenues would be unaffected, and any electricity generated wouldn't be fed into the local grid, leaving power bills unaffected.

So when you get into the rest of that meeting, the concerns of the citizens start getting a lot more practical.

One, for example, said all the added solar panels in the area had caused her property's value to drop. Another said the economies of area communities had dried up as a result of traffic diversion due to a nearby highway, and feared solar farms would similarly drive people away.

Your mileage may vary as to how valid any of their concerns were, and the company reps at the meeting said property values should be unaffected. The online article lacks pictures, so unfortunately we don't have any idea of the look on the reps' faces when the "solar panels suck up sunlight" issue came up.

As bizarre as that concern was, however, the rest of the issues raised by the citizens have given us an interesting insight into the local politics of the renewable energy revolution.

SOURCE: Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald

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