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Beware the renewable energy disinformation

It’s out there, in more ways than one.

David Dunagan doesn’t want a 760-acre solar power plant to be built across his fenceline. The Old Jackson Power Plant will replace farmland in Van Zandt County with gleaming, metal panels. Though the 127-megawatt plant will provide clean, renewable energy for some of the nearly 7.5 million residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex Dunagan has been organizing local landowners to stop it for the last year.

Generations of landowners have raised cattle or grown crops like hay and sweet potatoes in this slice of rural northeast Texas, and turning those fields into an industrial power plant isn’t an easy pill to swallow. One of Dunagan’s major worries is the environmental impact that the Old Jackson plant could have. “It’s literally in the middle of East Texas tornado alley,” he says. “There is a propensity for these facilities to get torn up, and the materials are scattered everywhere. These panels, there are several heavy metals used in thin layers,” he adds. “It’s been proven that these panels tend to leach over time, into the soil and water.”

Thing is, that hasn’t been proven. That’s because it’s not true. According to Wyatt Metzger, a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there’s little truth to the leaching-panel claim. Concerns about what happens if panels are discarded improperly at the end of their 30-year lifespan, are legitimate, however. But the idea that inclement weather could turn a functioning solar farm into a Superfund site littered with lead and cadmium-laced debris has caught on across the country as solar energy developments take off.

It’s a talking point that Dunagan picked up from so-called experts such as Michael Shellenberger, a staunchly pro-nuclear environmentalist who’s called climate activists “alarmists.” It’s been repeated by a national group called Citizens for Responsible Solar, which presents itself as a grassroots coalition, but was formed by a Republican consultant in Virginia. The myth has been pushed by the Foundation for Economic Education and the benign-sounding Institute for Energy Research, both libertarian think tanks that have direct ties to billionaire fossil fuel executives and climate change denialists Charles Koch and David Padden. Koch and Padden fund the Heartland Institute, one of the most infamous climate denial groups.

[…]

Disinformation about renewable energy isn’t new. For decades, fossil fuel companies and conservative think tanks have painted wind turbines as a bird-killing, unreliable, and property-value damaging source of energy. “We’re starting to see the same forces shift over, focusing on solar farms,” says Dave Anderson, a researcher with the Energy and Policy Institute who tracks fossil-fuel-funded disinformation about renewable energy. At the same time, solar energy is on the cusp of a growth spurt: Texas’ solar capacity is on track to grow by 150 percent this year. A similar upward trajectory is expected next year.

Many of the state’s largest solar plants have been built in West Texas, where land is cheap and sun is plentiful. In many of these counties, landowners were already used to having pumpjacks and wind turbines on their sprawling ranches, so solar wasn’t very different. Now, as the price of solar technology has dropped drastically, it’s more feasible for solar companies to locate their plants closer to energy-consuming cities, says Josh Rhodes, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute. In places like Van Zandt, Bell, or Wharton County, just outside of Sugar Land, developers will save on the cost of electric transmission from far West Texas. But here, residents aren’t as welcoming of the new, industrial developments.

This is going to get worse as the Biden administration makes a big push towards renewables as part of its climate change agenda. Be aware of what the propaganda is and be prepared to push back on it when you see or hear it.

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27 Comments

  1. Flypusher says:

    “ For decades, fossil fuel companies and conservative think tanks have painted wind turbines as a bird-killing, unreliable, and property-value damaging source of energy.”

    Actual painting of wind turbines could be a simple solution to the bird kill problem:

    https://www.fastcompany.com/90543981/painting-wind-turbine-blades-black-can-reduce-bird-deaths-70

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Any info about the giant batteries that will store this power and distribute it at night, and when it’s raining, so that the solar farms become reliable 24/7 producers like nuclear, gas, and coal?

    Without the batteries, I’d say some amount of solar might be helpful to reduce the number of “peaker” plants that have to stand ready all year just for the days when Texas is the hottest, when air conditioning demand hits its peak, but won’t be practical to replace our current, energy production methods.

  3. mollusk says:

    Legitimate question, Bill. Utility scale batteries exist and, as with EV batteries, are getting cheaper by the day. https://e360.yale.edu/features/in-boost-for-renewables-grid-scale-battery-storage-is-on-the-rise

    FWIW, solar panels continue to produce when it’s cloudy or raining, just not as efficiently. Of course, air conditioning demand diminishes then, too.

  4. Manny says:

    Bill never fails to respond with the typical Koch Industries lies. How much are you paid, Bill?

    https://archive.thinkprogress.org/obscure-think-tank-gains-influence-1644feb0b813/

  5. C.L. says:

    Manny ! On the attack again ? Doesn’t that get tiring for you ?

    For me, it’s just exhausting.

  6. brad says:

    Guys,

    Please stop hassling Bill. The man got cancer from being too close to a wind turbine once.

  7. Manny says:

    C.L quit reading what I post, but it is interesting that the lies Bill’s post don’t bother you.

    Are you having a pang of fascist guilt?

    Keep attacking me and expect the same, I know what you are doing and will not tolerate it much more longer. I have dealt with racists like you all my life.

    But tell me, C.L., is Bill espousing Koch Industries propaganda? That is a yes or no question.

  8. Manny says:

    But C.L. I am not interested in attacking you, let us agree that AR-type weapons need to be regulated and leave it at that.

    I know that you have some kind of affinity with Jason especially in regards to how Covid was handled, but I do have a problem with him constantly attacking Mayor Turner every chance he gets. Turner just happens to be black.

  9. Ross says:

    Manny, no, AR type firearms do not need to be regulated. The calls for regulation based on appearance are stupid beyond belief. AR’s are functionally no different than a number of more “conventional” appearing firearms, but non-thinking people don’t recognize that.

    You want to take away firearms from millions of people because 3 of them did something stupid? That makes no sense at all.

  10. Jason Hochman says:

    I am for renewable energy, but I’ve been told that climate change is over. I asked the vet office why they were forcing people and pets to wait outside, and then telling them to keep their cars running, spitting unnecessary greenhouse gas aloft. I asked them if this wasn’t going to contribute to global warming, the existential crisis of our time, and they told me that wasn’t a concern anymore. The risk that one centenarian could get sick and die overrides the destruction of an entire planet. The green new deal is just such an outdated idea.

  11. Manny says:

    Ross, let us agree to disagree, keep using on the coyotes. It is not an issue that is a topic that I care that greatly about.

    Besides, I have a grandson that loves the MP5.

  12. Manny says:

    Jason, why would people have to keep the car running? Besides pretty soon they will all be electric.

  13. C.L. says:

    I’m praying for you, Manny, if for nothing else than for you to excise whatever demons you have within you.

  14. Manny says:

    C.L. you seem to have me on your mind all the time going back years, should I start charging you rent?

    What was it you said about Commissioner Garcia?

    @Manny… I’d be interested in an actual reply from you re: Bill’s question on Adrian Garcia. Me ? I have no intention in voting for him strictly because of his helmet hairdo. No other reason.

    C.L. you are an asshole. For instance;

    C.L. November 27, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Oh Joe, if only you had been elected (for something, for anything, by anybody, at any time for any race), how better off we’d be. #UnstableGenius

    Went back to see who is C.L. he is an empty shell, seems to delight in insulting people not just me. C.L. has almost nothing to say about anything other than he is for gun control and believes old houses in the Heights should not be torn down. I have been inside his head for four years, I just realized that a ngnat was posting.

    Maybe I should pray for you C.L.?

  15. C.L. says:

    I love you, Manny.

  16. David Fagan says:

    Manny= Q

  17. Manny says:

    Gnats don’t know how to love C.L.

    Are you content that you got your grenade and blew up Washington by voting for Trump, David Fagan?

    From the past

    C.L.
    October 31, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    If you can’t speak English, how are you going to read a ballot ? If all you can go by is character recognition (Cruz or O’Rourke, for example) on that tiny little screen, are you really an informed voter ?
    Jules
    October 31, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    That’s what the translators are for. Some ballots are required to be in languages other than English.

    Are you an informed voter?
    C.L.
    October 31, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    I am.

    They’re allowing translators in the booths with the voter ?
    Jules
    October 31, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Yes. Now you are more informed.

  18. Manny says:

    By the way C.L. you mentioned that you worked for the federal government, with such informed people like you, it is no wonder that our federal government sometimes fails.

  19. David Fagan says:

    I am very content with the performance of Trump. People take their Constitution for granted, along with voting. There was a larger turnout this time around and now it’s Democrats who are trying to look more patriotic. It is amazing how patriotic people get when they feel their side “won”.

    So, yes, the metaphor hits home Manny, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine with me. Trump is out of office and you should be the happiest person on the block, unless of course, you really are Q.

  20. Manny says:

    David, a city employee, who hates government, what a miserable world you live in, that you want to blow up the government.

    To quote you David, “I voted for Trump because he was a grenade in D.C. and that’s exactly what he turned out to be.”

    Making an excuse that you did not know what Trump was capable of unleashing only shows your ignorance.

    So why do you hate Hillary Clinton, since 2000? That is the year that she became a senator from New York.

  21. Manny says:

    David, why are you scared to post your real name?

  22. Manny says:

    David you are a Republican that comes here for what? To show case your ignorance? From the past;

    David Fagan
    December 6, 2020 at 10:45 am

    If you, Kuff, are always harping that Republicans are not doing anything, then what are Democrats doing? I read about blue waves and Texas turning blue, but all the problems seem to stem from Republicans only. If there is something going right in this state, I’m thinking by this logic, that it is because Democrats had done it. So, what are the tremendously good things Democrats have done besides getting elected?
    Ross
    December 7, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    David, the Republicans have a majority in both houses of the Texas Legislature. Failure to properly fund schools is entirely on them.

    David Fagan
    December 7, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Soooooo, the Democrat positions are completely powerless in all sense of the word? Therefore there is nothing good happening in Texas at all? Democrats must be just getting elected into office and sit in their office doing nothing but blame Republicans? Is this what you’re telling me?

  23. Manny says:

    David, people like you and Bill are dangerous, you both are part of the web of deceit that seeks to destroy our Democracy. Part of the white supremacy design to rid the world of anyone that does not think or look like you all do.

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/1/24/2011170/-Nuts-amp-Bolts-Inside-the-Democratic-Party-Don-t-be-chicken

  24. David Fagan says:

    Manny = Q

  25. C.L. says:

    You’re making it hard for me to love you, Manny, but I still do.

  26. Manny says:

    C.L. I sent you a peace offering and you refused it, are you accepting it now?

  27. C.L. says:

    Manny, can you send me that peace offering again ? I’m not seeing it.