Columbia University researchers have identified 59 new renewable energy investment restrictions in 35 US states, bringing the total to 228. They noted that the nine state-level restrictions are severe enough to block the projects.
New York’s Columbia Law School has published the third annual conference on anti-renewable energy legislation in the United States. The report Opposition to Renewable Energy in the United States – May 2023 edition seeks to document local and state restrictions and opposition. for investing in renewable energy projects from 1995 to May 2023.
The authors argue that “local opposition to renewable energy is widespread and growing, and is a potentially significant obstacle to achieving climate goals.”
The report highlights several particularly challenging situations, such as:
- In Virginia, at least seven counties passed restrictive solar ordinances or moratoriums between June 2022 and May 2023 (Charlotte, Culpeper, Franklin, Halifax, Page, Pittsylvania and Shenandoah). Pittsylvania County, for example, now prohibits solar farms from being built within 5 miles of other solar facilities and limits energy-grade solar projects to 2 percent of the total area of any zoning district. Franklin County has set a countywide limit of 1,500 acres for all ground-mounted solar projects.
- Between April 2022 and March 2023, at least 11 Ohio counties passed binding resolutions banning large renewable energy projects in all or very large areas of their unincorporated areas.
In the latest version of the report, Columbia researchers identified as many as 228 local restrictions in 35 states. They also highlighted nine state-level restrictions that are so strict they could block a renewable energy project, the authors say. Additionally, the group listed 293 renewable projects that have faced significant opposition in 45 states.
The only states without significant restrictions or disputes according to the authors’ criteria were Alaska, Arizona, and Mississippi. For example, Yuma, Arizona, considered one of the sunniest cities in the United States, has a long history of stifling its power companies from developing solar projects.
Most of the state-level restrictions targeted wind power, with only a few directly related to solar power. Two of those restrictions involved state agencies in Connecticut and Maryland approving relatively small solar projects. In New York, the state government oversees the approval of larger solar projects.
By March 2022, the group had identified 169 unique local renewable energy constraints. Since then, 59 additional restrictions have been introduced, representing a 35 percent increase. Additionally, during the year, 82 projects faced controversial paths during their zoning processes.
During this period, the number of projects facing “serious organized opposition” increased by 39 percent.
Coinciding with the sharp increase in laws restricting renewables is the fact that solar power deployed a record 6.1 GW of capacity in the first quarter of 2023, and is set to commission a record 30 GW of capacity in 2023. And while it’s true that dozens of projects have been abandoned , thousands have been turned on.