Exploring the Opposition to Solar Power in Rural Communities
The development of renewable energy has been rapidly advancing in rural communities across the country, with ever-larger projects taking place in areas less accustomed to energy development. Despite the positive economic, environmental, and social consequences solar energy has been found to offer, many have expressed their opposition to the expansive presence of solar power in these areas. From threats to the economy to alleged potential impacts on human health, some are painting solar energy as an unwanted and potentially dangerous source of energy -all of this despite the fact that it is a clean and renewable energy source. This article aims to explore the justifications behind local opposition to solar power, while also offering potential solutions that could help allay the fears and concerns.
What is Solar Power?
To begin this exploration, we must first understand what solar power is and why it is so attractive to many. Solar energy is a form of renewable energy that comes from the sun, and is also referred to as solar photovoltaics or solar PV. The sun is a sustainable source of energy that can be captured and converted into electricity, a process that is made possible through photovoltaic (PV) cells. Solar PV cells are made up of special materials (often silicon) and are designed to create an electric field when the sun’s rays hit them. When energy from the sun shines onto these cells, electrons become liberated, which produces an electric current. This electricity can then be used to power homes, businesses, and organizations.
The decision to invest in solar energy is gaining traction due to the variety of potential benefits associated with it. For instance, solar technologies can help reduce monthly electricity bills, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gases, and create more resilient energy grids. On local, state, and national levels, solar energy has proven itself a reliable source of sustainable energy. Despite this, some continue to argue against it.
Exploring the Reasons Behind Opposition to Solar Power
Though solar energy offers various benefits, opposition to its continued development in rural areas is still quite prevalent. To understand why, let us explore the three main reasons put forward by those opposed to it.
Threat to the Economy
The most commonly cited concern among those expressing opposition to solar power is the potential negative economic impact. This concern comes from the idea of energy generation taking away from the traditional sources of electricity generation. While renewable energy deployment is currently producing jobs at a more rapid rate than nonrenewable energy jobs, the latter are still of significant importance in rural communities. Thus, any disruption to the current job market is seen as a threat, and opposition is raised.
Potential Health Impacts
The second main concern of those opposed to solar power is the potential health impacts it may pose. The idea stems from the potential consequences resulting from the radiation that is released by the photovoltaic (PV) cells during operation. While solar PV panels are found to release significantly lower levels of radiation compared to other sources of energy, it still is of concern to opponents. Various research studies have indicated that exposure to radiation from solar PV cells may increase the risk of cancer and other ailments.
Lack of Local Representation
The final concern voiced by opponents of solar energy is the lack of representation from the community in its development. This lack of representation is often seen as a form of lack of trust; the necessary education and outreach the broader community needs to build trust is missing. As such, many residents are uncertain of any potential perceived benefits and do not see the need for its continued development.
Alternatives to Solar
The fact that there is strong opposition to solar power in rural communities has caused some to look towards other alternative forms of energy. Those who are opposed to solar power may believe in the potential of other sources of renewable energy, such as wind and nuclear power.
Wind energy can be harnessed through the use of turbines. These turbines work by turning a large propeller-like blade in the wind, which is able to generate electricity. This electricity is then stored and transmitted to homes and businesses. Wind energy is cost-effective and has little to no detrimental effects on the environment, making it an attractive renewable source for communities.
Nuclear power is an energy source that utilizes the process of fission – the splitting of an atom. In this process, nuclear fuel is built up, which results in immense power being released. This energy can then be used to power homes and businesses. While nuclear power has the benefit of being able to produce substantial amounts of energy, it can also have negative impacts on the environment and on human health.
Given the current opposition to solar power in rural communities, what solutions can be proposed to alleviate these fears and concerns?
Education and Outreach
The first potential solution is that of education and outreach. As previously mentioned, trust is often an issue when introducing solar power to rural communities. To combat this, an active effort must be taken to educate and inform those who will be involved in the solar power transition. This could be done through local public meetings, online courses, presentations, and whatever else is needed to effectively communicate to residents about what is to be expected and why solar energy is beneficial.
In order to make solar energy more attractive to those in rural communities, the technology behind it must be improved. This means focusing on research and development to ensure that solar technology is as efficient, reliable, and cost-effective as possible. Currently, rising technology costs have been noted as a barrier to wider solar adoption. As such, finding a way to reduce these costs and provide customers with competitive pricing is key.
This article has explored the reasons behind the opposition to solar power in rural communities, as well as potential solutions that could help allay these fears. Considering the potential of renewable energy, it is crucial to look at ways of bringing communities on board rather than dismissing their legitimate concerns. Education, outreach, and improved technology have been put forward as potential solutions that could help make the embrace of solar power more widespread. Perhaps, if addressed, the opposition to solar power can be addressed and the potential for solar energy to benefit rural communities can be fully realized.
-“How Solar Energy Works.” Solar Power Authority, https://www.solarpowerauthority.com/solar-energy/.
-“Renewable Energy.” European Environment Agency, https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/renewable-energy.
-“How Can Solar Energy Be Used to Generate Electricity?” Solar Snapshot, https://www.solarsnapshot.com.au/blog/how-can-solar-energy-be-used-to-generate-electricity.
-“Wind Energy.” World Bank, https://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/energy/wind-energy.
-Huber, Mark. “Solar Power-What Are The Potential Health Risks?” SolarBlog – Stay Up to Date on Solar News and Trends, https://solarpowerrocks.com/blog/solar-power-risks/.
-Lin, Gigi. “Can Solar Really Help Rural Areas?” ACEE, https://acee.org/blog/can-solar-really-help-rural-areas/.