Sunday, April 24, 2022

Debatable: Solar projects

solar panels

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Adirondack Explorer’s March/April 2022 issue, in its ongoing “It’s Debatable” column. Click here to subscribe. The topic: Solar projects in the Adirondacks.

Solar projects in the Adirondack Park? Absolutely

Should the Adirondack Park be used for large solar projects? Yes! Clean, renewable energy belongs anywhere energy is consumed. That doesn’t mean renewable energy projects should be recklessly sited, and they certainly don’t belong—and can’t be sited—in the Forest Preserve. But 56% (3.6 million acres) of the Adirondack Park is privately owned, and development on most of that land is also subject to review by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The Adirondack Park itself is a grand experiment in achieving sustainability. So, generating clean energy that does not pollute the air or increase climate warming greenhouse gases must be part of the picture. And there’s more. Clean, renewable power reduces energy bills, provides community benefits, helps create new jobs and keeps our energy dollars from going to other states and countries.

Although it is not a large-scale project, the 2-megawatt Saranac Community Solar array completed last year occupies about 10 acres of land and will generate enough electricity for about 200 homes and businesses, with 40% of the power devoted to Adirondack Health, the community’s largest employer. The project will displace nearly 1,700 tons of CO2, lower subscribers’ energy bills and attract pollinators to the wildflowers planted underneath the solar panels. This array, at a site previously targeted by Walmart for a superstore, generates, instead of uses, energy and has far fewer impacts to aesthetics and community character.

Another example is the large-scale 20-megawatt solar project in the Town of Ticonderoga, which the APA approved at its October meeting. This grouping will include up-to-date ground-mounted solar panels that pivot to track the sun. And they have been sensitively sited to minimize visibility on flat territory. It requires very little tree cutting and will be screened by native vegetation and allow wildlife to pass underneath the fencing. Electrical cabling and transmission lines will be buried including under a small wetland to avoid impacts. And, since a portion of the site was an orchard and is lightly contaminated with arsenic, it would have been difficult to put to some other safe, productive, taxable use. Town residents overwhelmingly support the project, which will contribute $2,000 per MW in payments in lieu of taxes or about $40,000 annually to the local coffers (with a 2%/year escalator).

Solar projects belong within the Blue Line if properly designed and sited in a way that respects the Adirondack Park’s special status and the local community’s needs. 

Joe Martens is former Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and former Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance

Industrial power in the park. Not here! (from a 2021 Explorer interview)

The whole concept of the park is to create a vision for the entire 6 million plus acres and not just protect here and there. The idea that we’re going to put industrial solar facilities in farmland in the biggest and most important nature preserve in the lower 48 is absurd. I am just appalled by that and think it is an atrocious decision and completely inconsistent with the vision of the park of the last 140 years.

The park’s future has been damaged by the virtuous righteousness of a handful today including those who will make significant profits. The project for Moriah is outrageous—to take 60 plus acres of beautiful farmland for an industrial solar energy generating facility. Now, I understand global warming. It’s hot. It’s hotter than it should be and it’s getting warmer. Human activity is part of that. But it’s a big country. It’s a big state. It’s a big world. Why act in the political correctness of the moment?

The Adirondack Park Agency lacks an intelligent strategy for solar installations. I don’t think they should be allowing them but the APA should at least have a broad vision on solar development as opposed to just letting developers come in willy-nilly.

I am furious about it. There’s limited farmland in the park and that’s where they’re going to go—not in swamps or mountains or forest. And you can’t compete. Farmland is worth a lot more generating energy, when you get all the government subsidies, than it is growing hay or something and it’s hard to farm in the Adirondacks.

But it destroys the habitat and hurts wildlife. It takes away the ability to view things in a natural way. It is utterly inappropriate in the Adirondack Park. This is a small park in the context of the earth and it should be protected and not damaged by some misguided sense that somehow that’s going to have a significant impact on local carbon emissions.

Solar power is the future not just of the country but of the world. It’s going to get more efficient. It’s going to be cheaper than fossil fuel power. Build the solar farms. It’s part of what I do in my work. But not in the park. 

George E. Pataki, New York governor 1995–2006, senior counsel, Essex homeowner

Photo by Mike Lynch/Adirondack Explorer

Related Stories


The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com




79 Responses

  1. Zephyr says:

    If you are against solar you are not seriously fighting climate change. People keep putting up straw man arguments about solar fields or wind turbines on the High Peaks. Nobody is suggesting that. Yes, location is important, but solar can be placed in the Adirondacks in appropriate places and contribute to our energy future.

  2. Pat Smith says:

    Huge subsidies going to companies who have little interest in NYS other than to line their pockets. Why not do more to fund the individual home owner? Thousands and thousands
    of acres of farmland are already being gobbled up. Locally nearly 1000 acres for a commercial project that is over 25 megawatts. This falls under ORES, which takes virtually all decision making power away from the towns. In most cases PILOT benefits the county and school district the most, towns get about 6-7% of PILOT and can negotiate a separate host agreement. Of course the legislature has stipulated many caps on amount counties and towns can change. Decommissioning is a massive concern and once again the state limits how much a town can bond for decommissioning. Locally smaller sites (30-50 acres, 5-7 megs) are bonding for $250,000- $300,000. While I support more green energy, IMO this plan was created by our former Governor to further his political ambitions. In talking with a NYSERDA representative they believe wind energy is not likely to see to much new development in the future. There is barely an interest in Hydro. How do we meet the demand when two thirds of the renewable energy sources are not being utilized?

  3. Pat Smith says:

    * should read “of course the legislature has stipulated many caps on the amount counties and towns can charge”

  4. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Whenever it is I see solar panels up in a field while traveling through Vermont or New York, the first thing comes to mind is…..solar panels seem to me much less harmful to birds in flight than say, windmills. The latter have the opposite effect on this thinking of mine as they are high over the landscape and, whenever it is I see those, I cannot but immediately think ‘birds in flight at night colliding with them.’ If I could but just shut my mind off for a few moments, but ‘no’, I am destined to be a tortured soul the remainder of my years!

    • Zephyr says:

      Well, the National Audubon Society supports properly sited wind power. Yes, birds are killed, but climate change threatens to wipe out entire species. Buildings kill a lot of birds too. House cats too. https://www.audubon.org/news/wind-power-and-birds

      • Boreas says:

        Unfortunately, I no longer trust Audubon to be a strong advocate of birds. If current wind production kills half a million birds annually, won’t 10 times the wind power kill 5 million birds? They also cite death from buildings and cats are higher, but at what point will wind power take over as the leader? Doesn’t that still add up to more bird deaths?? And no mention of insect crashes and its effects on bird populations.

        We have to keep in mind not all of the environmental stalwarts from previous generations are still fighting the good fight. Many organizations are now in the pockets of the companies they should be fighting – or at least working with. Should collateral damage to the environment be an accepted casualty in the fight to slow climate change that is decades too late to matter? Are we now drinking the Kool-Ade being served by Big Energy – who ultimately are responsible for our current situation? After all, they are still chasing profits for stock owners, not trying to save the world. We need to be very careful not to take just anything at face value.

    • sbourret says:

      Gee when the only fields are solar fields = no crops no food , good plan .

  5. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Sure Zephyr, but maybe there could be a way to avert so much kill-off of birds. Like some kind of electronic device near, or at, these structures, that emits radio waves so that birds in flight will detect them with their built-in radar which surely they possess. We don’t think about such! Just put them up and think about the benefits for us gluttonous humans, versus having foresight and thinking about other than. We have the technology but I suppose birds aren’t worth the extra costs! It’s the same thing as tunnels under roads for wild animals to pass through in their travels so as not to be tortured by cars crossing over the road instead. Same thing as cement barriers on new roads, or old, which does not allow animals to cross over one side to the other, and so…..dead wild animals in countless numbers instead….thanks to that cement barrier which confuses them.

    It’s all about us Zephyr generally speaking, about what is conducive to the comfort of humans, not the other living things, and though I may come off cynical I cannot help but think on these things. Some countries, and states, are ‘on’ to such (tunnels, etc..) which is always pleasant to hear or read, but generally we go on about our business the way we have always done…..without regard for other living things…….. and yes I was very much aware of birds colliding with buildings, and housecats, when I wrote the above, which does not take away from the fact that we’re adding more to those great numbers each time we come up with new ideas to save…..save the planet with new technology, but kill more living things while we’re at it. Which is the same as building up an arsenal in order to achieve peace. I see no hope for us.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Boreas says:

      Charlie/Zephyr,

      Indeed, which species are expendable in our addiction to cheap energy? Bats? Birds? Insects? Mammals? Invertebrates? Humans? Any disruption to food chains, wind velocities, solar reflection (albedo), water absorption, etc. has an effect on any environment. What matters? What doesn’t? Who decides? More germane to the discussion, should the Park be used for a natural preserve, or the extraction resource typical of its past? It was set aside as a preserve for a reason. Have we lost track of that desire? Is it no longer important, or is it more important than ever??

      In truth, we have no idea of the long-term effects of large wind and solar farms within the Park. For just one example, solar promoters make the quaint statement that pollinator species can be planted in the footprint of solar fields. Well, they can be planted, but there are not many pollinator species that thrive in the solar shade and precipitation shade created by each panel. Same with many species of invertebrates (above and below ground) who may not be able to traverse the sun/shade/sun/shade boundaries because of temperature or moisture considerations. If the solar field no longer produces seasonal, varied food for birds or other species that rely on those invertebrates, does not provide natural perches/seclusion from which to hunt, and presents a large expanse of sparsely-vegetated land for animals to traverse safely, how are we helping the environment? Even a neglected, fallow field is more beneficial to wildlife (plant and animal) than a field full of unnaturally positioned and sited structures.

      Small-footprint, private sites would likely provide no more disruption than the existing habitation/barn structures. I would much prefer this solution to both wind and solar supplementation inside the Park. But we need to keep looking for better long-term solutions, or decrease the energy demand within the Park.

      • JB says:

        Boreas, I agree that while the “pollinator-friendly solar farm” sounds promising, this has yet to be proven out. There is a lot that can go wrong when we’re trying to mimic nature. Even stocked natives are not going to be genetically (and by extension ecologically) equivalent to “wild” natives. But, this is a moot point considering that we aren’t living in a prairie or desert ecoregion. Trees grow here! And we can’t have trees near our solar panels.

        That means that not only are these types of “pollinator-friendly” landscapes going to be “unnatural”–and after all, the Adirondack Park is a large, natural landscape–they are going to be considerably more complicated to maintain than those in other places. Mowing, which is implicit to some extent in any “pollinator-friendly” solar regime, is going to be all the more important here–and this will again limit those ecological benefits.

        But what concerns me more is that this “eco-friendly’ landscaping approach all remains in the speculative experimentation stage, no matter the ecoregion. There is quite a bit of hype, and very little details. Even though nobody seems to be talking about it in any concrete terms, herbicides are undoubtedly being used, even, to some extent, in the maintenance of “pollinator-friendly” solar farms. What’s more, trees and shrubs do not respond to more conventional and widely used agricultural and landscaping herbicides. Hence, specialized formulations, mostly quite “heavy-duty” and regulated, are being marketed for this purpose.

        If this were a small-scale issue, it would be a small-scale problem. But in the immediate Adirondack region alone, we are talking about thousands of acres. (That’s a lot of land!) On a smaller scale, and at a much smaller economy of scale, there are better options. There are pilot agrivoltaic programs, for example, where “solar canopies” are being constructed on scaffolding high above more traditional food crops, and with promising results. But, again, that is a different animal altogether than what is being discussed here. (Utility-scale agrivoltaics is not coming to the Adirondack Park, at least, any time soon.)

        • Boreas says:

          JB,

          I agree. Solar promoters often tout warm and fuzzy buzzwords like “pollinator-friendly” and “eco-friendly” as if one size fits all. Then they show us pictures of solar farms that look to me like an obvious ecological desert. Look at the picture on this article as an example. I see few plants and animals frolicking under that array. Put on the slightest slope and you have erosion. And what about wind erosion? I see a dirt parking lot that generates electricity. My feeling WITHIN THE PARK is to use them where there are existing structures, but leave the landscape alone. Elsewhere, have at it, but study the environmental IMPACT at the same time. It may be OK to drink the Kool-Aid, but at least taste it first.

          • JB says:

            Exactly. With all of the funding going into getting these projects deployed (including millions from the State), it would at least be reasonable to expect a proportionate amount of funding for research into these finer–but critical–details. If larger-scale ecosystem impact is too broad of a concept, how about–for a start–at least putting together a body of research about “Best Practices”? Is that really so incompatible with climate science?

            Has anyone really researched the implications of managing a solar-compatible persistent wildflower meadow? What about those effects of erosion, invasive species, herbicide use, etc.? …And this research needs to be localized: impacts and best strategies for the midwest, or even the Hudson Valley, will be sharply different than those for the Adirondacks, with big practical differences even on smaller, subregional scales.

            Maybe, with enough research there is in fact a way to introduce sheep, without all of the bad things that have historically come along with them, such as “sheepwrecked” landscapes and wildlife disease, especially in whitetail deer (e.g., catarrhal fever, maybe even prion disease). There are plenty of potential “solutions” with public profile and brand appeal. What’s needed now is some weeding. And some daylight. (No puns intended.)

  6. AdirindackAl says:

    A zero-carbon economy requires massive land area for renewable energy and wires galore. Coastlines and ridges for wind, fields for solar. Add some room for nukes as well. It requires some discomfort and some cost. We’re consuming massive amounts of ancient solar energy (fossil fuels) as we speak, and the impacts of doing so will be profound. The free lunch is over.

  7. Zephyr says:

    There are lots of creative places to put solar panels that improve the built environment. There is a grocery store I go to that has a solar installation over most of the parking lot, plus electric car chargers below. Provides shade in the summer, and keeps the rain or snow off too. Here’s a 2,000-car parking lot that will have a solar installation built over it. https://www.capecodtimes.com/story/news/2022/04/22/steamship-authority-solar-farm-renewable-energy-nextgrid-falmouth-cape-cod/7386532001/

    • Boreas says:

      Zephyr,

      To me this is the best answer with solar – put them where the energy is used. This alone eliminates transmission lines – another ignored necessity for solar farms leading to the grid.

  8. AdirondackAl says:

    You can’t power a city from solar generated within a city’s footprint. Solar is too diffuse of an energy source. Massive solar arrays and build out of terrestrial and coastal wind power is required, even after energy efficiency retrofits of all buildings. The necessary electrification of all buildings and transport to eliminate fossil use compounds the problem.

    • Zephyr says:

      I’ve seen some estimates that we could power the entire USA for about $23 billion dollars, covering an area roughly the size of Lake Michigan. But, we don’t need to cover the Adirondacks to make solar be part of the solution. Like I mentioned above, solar can be over parking lots, or how about on the top of things like gas station (Stewarts) canopies, grocery stores, any large building, many home roofs, etc. with nobody even noticing. Some towns are putting solar fields over old landfills that aren’t good for much else. There is already electrical grid wiring to these locations. Add some battery backup storage and you have the perfect locations for electric vehicle recharging stations. Plus, every building would have its own backup power for when the grid goes down.

      • Pat Smith says:

        One issue with battery storage is if there is a fire it had to burn from cell to cell until it exhausts itself. Containment is the best case scenario. Batteries also have the potential to explode. It will be challenging for fire departments, especially small volunteer departments, to upgrade equipment and training. Ironically the majority of solar panels are being produced in other countries using coal and other fossil fuels.

  9. Charlie Stehlin says:

    JB says: “herbicides are undoubtedly being used, even, to some extent, in the maintenance of “pollinator-friendly” solar farms.”

    Isn’t it funny how there’s all of the scenarios we pick and choose pro and con for this or that latest environmental battle which is thrust upon us visionaries, and then someone throws out a nugget which was not present in the psychology up to those moments! This happens with me frequently. Until I read the above I never thought about this. Now, whenever it is I drive past a field of solar panels it will be foremost in my mind. It only makes sense! All of the grass or undergrowth rising from the ground beneath those solar panels will only become a nuisance after a short while and how to better (and cheaply…always cheaply) be rid of them…..fungicides. Thank you JB for the ammo!

  10. Charlie Stehlin says:

    But of course Zephyr! They use, or used to use, goats to graze certain sections in Vale Cemetery at Schenectady, and I have heard of similar practices in other places. Imagination is good in more ways than one!!

  11. Zephyr says:

    So, what do the people who say no to solar and wind suggest we do in the Adirondacks to combat climate change? Some seem to suggest nuclear, but come back with your plan when you are willing to have that plant next door to your home. And then let us know how you plan to safely store the highly toxic and dangerous waste for the next few thousand years. I would be perfectly happy to live next door to a solar farm or a wind turbine. I find them rather beautiful.

    • Boreas says:

      I suggest we grow the forests. Not many places doing that.

      • Zephyr says:

        We’ve been doing that in the Northeast for the last 100 years, and have done a pretty good job too. Most forested region in the country I believe. Yes, that is one thing we have been pretty good at and can continue to foster. The thing is battling climate change will not require one change or another, but a whole bunch of different things from managing the land and water, to generating clean power, to using less power, to inventing new things. Solar is one piece of the puzzle.

        • JB says:

          Zephyr, an important aspect of “the puzzle” that we often overlook is that climate change actually makes larger, undisturbed ecosystems all the more important. For example, the encroachment of invasive species, further fueled by climate change, has led to a situation where more disturbed forested ecosystems are not faring as well. Many have passed the point of no return, and the snowball effects are coming.

          The ideal of a land use puzzle with many uniformly-sized interlocking pieces represents a flawed approach. Although this “egalitarian” approach may seem like a socially just and benevolent plan, the natural world does not fit into this type of mold. For example, population dynamics in forests do not obey human constructed rules; nor do geologic processes that determine the distribution of mineral resources; nor do rivers and lakes. And in reality, people–as parts of the ecosystem–do not fit into this mold either. By this kind of artificial logic, the sprawling megalopolis would be an ideal land use regime. …While in fact, such places are notoriously unequal, unjust, unsustainable and unnecessarily environmentally destructive.

          Forward-thinking planners have long accepted conservation design as the best approach for development. There is no reason that energy production should be any different. And predictably, the same lobby that is opposed to land use planning (including specifically within the Adirondack Park)–on the grounds of a myopically flawed economic theory–has opposed any limitations on siting of commercial solar.

          Hence, “you wouldn’t want X in your backyard” is problematic thinking. Just because not everyone would want a nuclear power plant in their backyard–nor is this necessary–this does not mean that there should be no nuclear power plants. And conversely, there are things that belong in backyards that do not belong everywhere. Scrutiny is good; I’m not disagreeing that we should be wary about nuclear energy. I’m merely suggesting that we apply that same level of scrutiny to all of our industries, solar and wind included. That is how we get safer nuclear power plants, and sane policy on renewables.

          • Boreas says:

            I lived for about 10 years within spitting distance of two nuke plants on L. Ontario. The plants gave many people good jobs and I believe have yet to have any accidents. I believe one may be decommissioned now. The other was 9 Mile Point, I believe the last nuke plant built in the US. Frankly, I never paid much attention to them. They just kept on pumping out the electricity – albeit, like anything in the US – were not inexpensive due to redundant safety design.

  12. Susan says:

    Climate change = climate control. The demonrats are using the concept to create an “existential threat” so that the CDC/ NIH/ alphabet soup of bureaucrats can instill regulations under the guise of “a health emergency” to control every aspect of your lives- where you live, how you move about, how much you move about, what you eat, what you purchase, how many children you have, where your children are “educated”, what you own, how you heat your home, how you raise your family, where you worship, if you worship, etc., etc., etc. Mark my words, “climate change” is a hoax of the maximum degree, and if it were real, how come China and India, and other far East countries are totally not on board? Because the marxists of this country are aiming to “fundamentally change America” and this is their number one tool.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Should we increase taxes?

    • Dana says:

      Mark MY words – the biggest danger to this country wears a MAGA hat.

      • Tom Paine says:

        Nope, Not when when the Democrats and former President Obama talk of curtailing freedom of speech in order to silence opposition. There is the biggest real danger.

        • JohnL says:

          Agree completely TP. A President of the United States (among other D’s) calling for free speech to be curtailed is despicablle. Thanks for reminding us where the real danger lies.
          BTW, your name is apt. You should write some sort of a patriotic pamphlet. Don’t call it ‘Common Sense’ though. That’s been used.

        • Dana says:

          Are we saying the insurrection was freedom of speech?

          Are we saying the biggest liar in history should be given freedom of speech?

          Are we saying waging war on unions and systematically eliminating the middle class (beginning with Reagan), while enriching the rich even more was done by democrats? BTW, what was the going tax rate in the era you wish to return to?

          You have learned your speaking points well, but unfortunately, it is nothing but BS. The same BS that MAGA spewed and still spews on a daily basis. This is why it is dangerous.

          • JohnL says:

            Your so called insurrection started out as free speech but when the Capitol Police opened the doors and let people in, it turned ugly. I’m certainly not proud of the way it turned out. Having said this, I hope you were as harsh on the 2020 summer of weapons filled riots by BLM/Antifa as you were on this unarmed ‘insurrection’. They cost us (you/me) 100 times in money and lives what it did at the Capital.
            Every person, liar or otherwise, has the right of free speech. It’s in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. IT’S THE FIRST ONE.
            If 8+ percent inflation, $4.50/gallon gas, loss of US energy independence, overseas wars, letting unlimited numbers of unvetted/unidentified aliens into the country etc etc are ‘talking points’, then I guess I’m guilty as charged. Put the ‘cuffs’ on me.

      • JohnL says:

        Yeah Dana, we wouldn’t want to go back to peace and prosperity. That (P&P) is wicked over-rated. The world in chaos, having to buy oil from despotic dictators, borders wide open, inflation ballooning, President who can’t string 2 sentences together. That’s what’s really important. What was I thinking?

        • Dana says:

          What about a president who can’t speak two sentences that don’t contain at least one lie? Speech impediments are indeed an impediment to speech, but a pathological liar is just not to be trusted.

          • Pat Smith says:

            Wait are you talking about Hillary?

          • JohnL says:

            Not talking about speech impediments. I’m talking about his dementia. His confused speeches. His shaking hands with imaginary people. His being ‘saved’ from reporters by the Easter Bunny. You probably don’t have a clue what I’m talking about because the few ‘news sources’ you watch/read don’t show you those clips. Google ‘joe biden clueless speech’ and you’ll see a plethora of examples.
            Sorry Melissa to get off the topic here. I was being a good boy reading the posts on this thread, but I had to respond to Dana’s ‘maga hat’ comment. I’ll try to be better. It’s not easy being a conservative on this website. Keep up the good work.

            • Woof, just now seeing all this. Thanks for calling yourself out, John. I appreciate your perspective and willingness to jump into the debate. But yeah, this is getting out of hand… 😉

  13. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Susan says: Climate change = climate control. The demonrats are using the concept to create an “existential threat” so that the CDC/ NIH/ alphabet soup of bureaucrats can instill regulations under the guise of “a health emergency” to control every aspect of your lives………………………

    > I am reminded of what is taking shape in Russia as we speak. Putin, the dictator, Trump’s friend, is going after the liberals whom you seem to abhor Susan. Why would he go after the liberals? Because liberals are usually the ones who go against the status quo. The smart ones! The intellectuals! This country was founded by such….antagonists! Protesters, not conformists! Read the history Susan! Whenever it is a dictator assumes control of a country who do they go after? Those who threaten them the most…the liberals, the intellects, doctors, etc, all of the smart ones. Is why many liberals are leaving Russia….they’re smart! They like their freedom, they don’t like to be suppressed! Intelligent people are a threat to dictators…..is why they’re a threatened species wherever it is the latter takes control. In Putin’s mind, anybody who goes against him is a traitor. That word! Where have I heard it before?

    I read a report which said that two-thirds of the Russian people approve of Putin’s hate! Who are those two-thirds? The less-educated (ie, the ignorant), those mainly living in rural areas where the population is poorer….. some of the same kind of folk who voted for Trump in this country, and others, including those God-loving evangelicals. God-loving & hate…a contradiction of terms! But there you go! It’s no wonder so many people are getting away from religion! The report went further and said that these same people who favor Putin’s terror also “receive their whole construction of reality exclusively from television…” which implies people who don’t generally read I suppose………

    So where am I going besides political, which I am not by the way, am just putting forth ‘not fake news’, and am responding to your nonsense above. Let me ask you Susan. Why is it you think the demonrats (a new word to me. Where have I been!) are lying about global warming? I mean if you look around and observe for yourself, and if you have any reason whatsoever about you, and even just an inkling of awareness, and if you read the real news, you’ll know things are different. I mean, for heaven’s sake…glaciers are disappearing from the face of the earth! We’re breaking records for heat every year, more wildfires, etc., etc…. And here you are trying to convince us (some of us) that these are all lies, or disinformation as some call it, by those horrible, charitable, caring, thoughtful liberals? Is it possible that maybe those who are planting these conspiracists seeds in your head just might be getting one over on you Susan, that maybe they are lying. I mean really….think about it!

    • Boreas says:

      Charlie,

      Wikipedia:
      “In political science, a reactionary or a reactionist is a person who holds political views that favour a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which that person believes possessed positive characteristics absent from contemporary society.”

      Reactionary is a label we don’t see often enough in today’s political discourse. There is a tendency among centrists and liberals to use the term “conservative” to describe reactionary beliefs and politics, which does the true reactionary a disservice. I don’t know why this is. As to where Q-Anon comes into play – even more problematic. Abandonment of fact to lead a political course of action is very dangerous. Climate change cannot be denied by anyone with their head out of the sand. But indeed, the reasons for climate change are both complicated and legion. But if humans CAN do anything to help mitigate the situation while preserving finite resources, shouldn’t we?

      Big Oil cleverly began dipping its toe into renewable sources of energy when their own research found their culpability almost 40 years ago (and kept it quiet), while they kept their other leg fully immersed in oil and obfuscation. Since much of “Green Energy” is being secretly promoted by the same corporations or sister corporations that put us in this situation, all citizens need to proceed cautiously. Centrists and liberals are guzzling the Kool-ade without reading the label. Or is it indeed too little, too late?

      This isn’t to say Big Oil, the most profitable corporations on the planet, can’t be part of the solution, but we need to carefully follow the money and the profits into politics. Corporations are compelled to create profits for their investors. Does this, however, make them responsible citizens (think Citizens United)?? Not at all.

    • Susan says:

      I will say it again, President Trump never said that Putin was his friend. That is disinformation. What he DID say was that he RESPECTED Putin for his ability as the leader of Russia, and for what he could be capable of doing, just like every world leader should also respect him. And you have a very high opinion of yourself as an elitist intellectual, and a very low opinion of rural dwellers, who by the way, grow the food. And if liberals are so freedom loving, why are they trying to curtail the freedoms of conservatives? As for your “real news” I think it is a mouthpiece of the DNC and their agenda.

  14. Charlie Stehlin says:

    JB says: “…an important aspect of “the puzzle” that we often overlook is that climate change actually makes larger, undisturbed ecosystems all the more important.”

    I can clearly see what draws me to your contributions on this thread JB! You’re a smart man! “Of course” to what you say above! You don’t have to be a scientist to come to this realization. And look at our trajectory! Always following the same path, business as usual. The ‘crazy ape’ man digging his own grave and taking the rest of the world, and all of the ‘amazing’ harmless other species down with him while he’s at it…. without even a remote conception of those generations yet to be. It’s a horrible reality, and sad, and it’s just too bad more earthlings aren’t enlightened.

  15. Zephyr says:

    It’s unfortunate that the Almanack allows many comments that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. These frequently ruin otherwise interesting and useful discussions about important topics. Back to solar. Here’s an interesting article about farming below solar panels. Existing farmland is often the ideal place to site large solar arrays. https://interestingengineering.com/growing-crops-under-solar-panels-could-substantially-boost-energy-production

  16. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Be a little more open-minded Zeph! Your words come off as if to dissuade others from speaking out, which is “unfortunate” as so much of that is going on everywhere else. Open up, be liberal………………..and remember it’s all relative!

  17. Hi all, I apologize for not being more involved in monitoring this thread. My kids have been out sick the past few days….

    Here’s a link to our commenting policy:
    https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/commenting-policy

    Hopefully we can steer this discussion back on track! Thanks!

  18. s.bourret says:

    Cut trees on the property you own and pay taxes on the apa. has a hissy fit but clearcut 25 acres and put solar panels and fencing around it . to provide electricity for million dollar “camps” no problem , money goes to money .

  19. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “It’s unfortunate that the Almanack allows many comments that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. These frequently ruin otherwise interesting and useful discussions…”

    Ruin – “the disastrous disintegration of someone’s life”
    “the physical destruction or disintegration of something or the state of disintegrating or being destroyed”
    “cause great and usually irreparable damage or harm to; have a disastrous effect on”

    Most of what commenters comment about on here, 99%, relate to the ‘subject at hand.’ And then there’s some which evolves from the ‘subject at hand’, and others go in this or that direction, none of which disturbs me in the least, and I most certainly don’t feel as if I’m causing great harm when I drift a little! Myself…..I like when commenters drift, as at the very least it keeps things ‘interesting’ and why anybody would feel uneasy about a little drifting which keeps things alive is beyond me. I hope this site don’t lose you JB because of this suppression that some like to impose upon others.

    After seeing the above comment yesterday I was put-off! Now I feel like I have to watch every word I say, or I must be very careful not to drift, because heaven forbid…. I’ll be penalized for evolving into something else, or I just might ruin another commenter’s life. Meanwhile what about the other 95% of me! Don’t that count! I’ve left this site in the past because of this same thing. This is the problem with being close-minded, you have to watch every word you say around certain others!

    I recall some poster a little while back expressing how he liked the poster’s comments better than the actual articles themselves. I understood this commenter to mean he likes the way the comments evolve. And then you have someone losing sleep over such, or complaining about others not being purists on the Adirondack Almanack! Geez! Why would a little drifting bother someone so much? I don’t get it! Sure, we’re talking about the Adirondacks here, this is why people come to the site, but why is it the human side of us cannot slip out now and again without us having to worry about being penalized. We seem to be getting more and more of this as time goes on….’watch what you say’, ‘be careful not to offend someone because they’re intellectually brittle and fear being carried away by currents with varied views. Evidently evolution, or being free and open, goes against some people’s constitution……..

    I’m not picking on anyone here and I’m not being mean-spirited, I’m just expressing my angst with what I feel to be a form of suppression which makes me very uneasy & I just had to get it out!

    • Zephyr says:

      There’s a difference between “drifting” and spouting crackpot nonsense .

      • Boreas says:

        Scientific debate certainly has its place. However, when a forum is opened to all, politics – the ever present 400 pound gorilla in every room – will always be heard, albeit rarely helpful. Consider Sisyphus when considering U.S. politics.

    • JB says:

      Charlie, thanks for pulling me back in. As someone who espouses some unpopular ideas, I’m always amazed that our benevolent editor remains so impartial (with or without the possible help of a really good poker face), and yet “The Almanack” is still regularly accused of bias! They publish a diversity of perspectives. And if anyone has a new and unique perspective to contribute, they’ll likely publish that too. The Adirondacks are a contentious place these days. But I’m certainly not going anywhere.

      Conservatism–which fundamentally posits that we are not smart enough to “improve” upon the wisdom of traditional cultural values–underestimates the inherent dynamism of any traditional value system that has survived long enough to talk about. …Whereas, fundamentally, liberalism overestimates its own ability to reconcile personal freedom and common good. In either idealized version of the world, there would be nothing to debate. In reality, both concepts have everything in the world to do with any moden debate, and renewable energy is certainly no exception. Arguably, classical conservatism has more in common at this point with traditional indigenous “legal systems” than it does with anything in modern American politics; and classical liberalism is no longer synonymous with political “liberalism”. But, maybe we can agree on this: what seems to be lacking most of all these days (maybe with the exception of Charlie’s comments here) is humility.

  20. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Crackpot nonsense! What Susan says! Sure, I get it, but still Zephyr…..crackpot nonsense is reality to some! And then there’s God! And I say this as per example, not as a bias or a stereotype. Millions upon millions claim to be kin to him (or her), see him (or her) supreme to all things else, yet those millions can never prove he (or she) exist. They’ll bow down to him (or her) even while the nukes are flying, believing he (or she) is going to come down and save us, or save our bank accounts, whereas in reality only we can save ourselves. And then there are those who think those millions are a bunch of crackpots…….

    So you see…what is crack-pottery to you is not to others. May we all find some common ground and see each as a mere parcel of the whole, each unique in our own ways……so long as we’re not harming others, harming other’s property, stealing from others, etc. And most of all….if we could just come to see how we all have that common bond, death & taxes, and other. If we could just come to such hey Zeph. To see that you and me and Susan have more in common with each other, generally speaking of course, than we do with arrogant millionaire, narcissists; come to that place where we could put an end to all the petty quarrels, which oftentimes lead to larger quarrels, or worse. To end all wars! To know, that no matter how much money Elon Musk has he is just as human as the both of us, no more no less………….. So now I am really drifting here! You opened a can of worms Zephyr.

    • JohnL says:

      You’re making some sense today Charlie. I actually agree with a surprising number of the thoughts in your posts today. Don’t faint pal, remember, I’m only talking about today. As proof that your crackpottery comment is spot on, I too have some opinions on who the crackpots on this site are. Spoiler alert……Susan ain’t one of them. Keep looking though. They’re out there. You have a great day Charlie.

  21. Zephyr says:

    Another example of rooftop solar in New York. You wouldn’t even know it was there unless you went up to the roof to see it silently generating power for at least 20-30 years with little maintenance. https://www.wamc.org/news/2022-04-27/suny-albany-unveils-largest-solar-rooftop-project-in-the-university-system

  22. Zephyr says:

    The entire state of California briefly ran on all renewable power, mostly solar. Yes, they have a ways to go to be all renewable all the time, but I thought it was interesting that they could do it even for a brief period. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/05/02/california-renewable-energy-100/9612901002/

    • JB says:

      Zephyr, thanks for the thought provoking link!

      I’m scratching my head at some of the numbers, though. Mostly, I think the article uses ambiguous wording, but there are a few spots where the numbers definitely don’t paint the full picture. The article states that “energy demand statewide hit 18,672 megawatts at 2:45 p.m. local time”, but it’s worth pointing out that total peak energy demand for California, occurring later in the evening, can exceed 45 GW, while current peak solar energy production in California, occurring earlier in the day, is seldom if ever able to reach half of that (never if we exclude solar thermal generation). Although it’s surprisingly hard to find numbers on this, current California total solar energy production capacity likely represents up to 200,000 acres of developed land area (though roughly 1/3 of that is probably represented by rooftop solar).

      But confusing the issue even more, some sources (e.g., https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2020/01/03/solar-surges-california-desert-environment-trump/2665799001/) are projecting that the state will need 4 to 5 times more installed solar energy capacity in order to reach its 2045 net-zero goals. That’s a lot of land use conversion in a short period of time! …And it is largely slated to take place on untouched public lands, in arguably the most biodiverse ecosystem in the country.

      I’ll oppose bulldozing hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine habitat anywhere, for any reason. The clock is undeniably ticking on fossil fuel driven climate change, but there needs to be more scrutiny. Swift action is not in and of itself a problem, but rushing, historically speaking, has not ended well. Hopefully California does not become a model for us.

      …For reference, the projected peak energy demand for New York State last year was 32 GW (70% of California’s 45 GW) (https://www.nyiso.com/documents/20142/2223020/2021-Power-Trends-Report.pdf/471a65f8-4f3a-59f9-4f8c-3d9f2754d7de). Direct Normal Irradiance in the Adirondacks is also about 70% that of the Mojave Desert. Considering atmospheric conditions, we would likely need at least 50% more total installed solar capacity than California to power the same proportion of New York State’s energy grid (not taking into consideration our disproportionate use of fossil fuels for heating).

  23. JohnL says:

    Ambiguous wording! Don’t paint the full picture! Confusing the issue! Megas versus gigas! Early afternoon vs ‘later in the evening! Sounds like the usatoday article about Californias’ solar capability was, if not outright lying, was EXTREMELY misleading in trying to make some point. As always, I could be wrong.

  24. JohnL says:

    An interesting article and easy to read graphs showing California electricity generation from 2001-2021. https://www.energy.ca.gov/data-reports/energy-almanac/california-electricity-data/electric-generation-capacity-and-energy

  25. JohnL says:

    My 1st post wasn’t showing an hour or so after I wrote it, so I basically repeated it. Maybe I needed to ‘refresh’ my screen or something. Whatever it was, it was my bad. Sorry to waste space.

  26. JB says:

    To be fair, I think that the article Zephyr linked was based on reporting from The Desert Sun, which does a pretty good job covering both sides of the issue (though it appears to be owned by the same parent company as USA Today). The Sun article that I linked covers some of the environmental pushback against utility-scale solar in California.

    I don’t think it matters how astute the reporting is–nobody can “paint the full picture” at this scale in a news article. Ultimately, I think we need to weigh the analysis of trusted experts and agencies with our own common sense. For example, popular news likes to talk about “installed solar capacity” as measured in (mega/giga)watts, but this is not a portable metric that can be used for drawing conclusions in different regions or even across different timeframes. According to various sources, California likely now has in excess of 27 GW of “installed solar capacity” (with roughly a quarter of that coming from concentrated solar thermal, which has no future in NYS), while New York State maybe has around 3 GW of “installed solar capacity” (roughly a 10x difference). But in reality, the difference between California and New York annual solar energy production, measured in (giga/tera)watt hours, is much greater. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), California’s net solar energy generation for 2021 was about 34.3 TWh, while New York State’s net solar energy generation for the same year was about 1.2 TWh (roughly a 30x difference)!(see https://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/#/topic/0?agg=1,0,2&fuel=004&geo=qnifi05c03j78&sec=o3g&linechart=ELEC.GEN.SUN-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.SUN-NV-99.A~ELEC.GEN.SUN-CA-99.A&columnchart=ELEC.GEN.SUN-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.SUN-NV-99.A~ELEC.GEN.SUN-CA-99.A&map=ELEC.GEN.SUN-US-99.A&freq=A&start=2015&end=2021&ctype=linechart&ltype=pin&rtype=s&maptype=0&rse=0&pin=)

    From this, common sense requires us to ask a few questions. How much land area must be set aside per annual TWh generated? I can’t find good sources on this, but it would appear that in California this is somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 acres, whereas in New York State, this number might fall somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 acres. …How much of this can be installed on rooftops as opposed to converted land? (I.e., how many rooftops really are there?)

    But the bigger question for me is: how much of our energy in New York State needs to be–or *should* be–generated by solar?

    According to the EIA, New York State produced about 4.4 TWh of wind energy in 2021–roughly 4x more than total NYS solar energy production for 2021, but less than 1/3 of total California wind energy production for 2021. New York State’s goal for 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035, if achieved, should increase NYS total annual wind energy generation by a factor of 10! This likely represents millions of acres of offshore development, roughly on par with land area that would be required to generate a similar proportion (20-30%) of NYS energy via solar.

    For conventional hydroelectric power, EIA estimates about 28.0 TWh of total energy generation in New York State for the year 2021. New York State continues to produce a significant proportion–roughly 20%–of its energy via hydroelectric power stations. California, meanwhile, despite having a historically higher hydroelectric generation capacity, produced only about half as much hydroelectric energy in 2021 due to increasingly frequent and severe droughts. The Champlain Hudson Power Express will import enough energy for hydroelectric to potentially account for more than 25% of total NYS electric power consumption.

    Recently down due to the complete decommissioning of the 2 GW Indian Point nuclear power plant last year, EIA estimates that NYS produced 31.1 TWh of nuclear energy in 2021. Still, nuclear power generation currently represents roughly 25% of New York State energy generation–more than any other net-zero source. California’s last nuclear power plant, with a similar 2.2 GW capacity, is scheduled to shut down in 2025. In both cases, this will likely be offset with natural gas plants in the short term. For perspective, it could take up to 500,000 acres of utility-scale solar in New York State to replace either one of these nuclear power plants.

    It would appear that, even taking into account planned wind and hydroelectric expansion, this leaves us about 20-30% short of meeting even current NYS electric power demand without fossil fuel based electricity generation. Maybe there is an argument that we could reach 100% net-zero (assuming 1/4 of that is nuclear) with solar projects. Inevitably, there will be an expansion of solar in coming years. But how much? Very roughly estimating based on 10,000 to 30,000 acres per annual TWh for solar, bridging this 20% gap could take anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million acres of land area (between 1.5% and 4.5% of total NYS land area).

    But now consider this: New York State consumes an annual 1,337.8 trillion Btu of natural gas (according to EIA in its NY profile: https://www.eia.gov/state/print.php?sid=NY)! Assuming EIA estimates for NYS natural gas consumption for electricity generation during the same reference period, 365.5 trillion Btus (27.3%) of that is being used for electricity generation. This leaves 972.3 Tcf for heating, etc, or 285.0 TWh of energy–roughly twice the current total annual NYS electric power consumption! Now considering an increase in efficiency of electric appliances over gas (5-20% and 100%-200% increased efficiency for baseboard and heat pump heating over gas, 30%-50% increased efficiency for electric cooking over gas), NYS annual electricity consumption is still on track to more than double in coming years! But most problematically of all, peak power consumption under a net-zero scenario will likely occur in the winter months for much of NYS. And I’m not even considering the transition to electric vehicles!

    By all means, correct my math where it is wrong! …But perhaps solar, or solar alone, is not so ideal after all? I think that NYS is going to need to import more energy, or build a few additional nuclear power plants.

    • Zephyr says:

      You could have made the same exact argument when petroleum wells were first drilled in the 19th century–will never replace whale oil, too little, the quality is terrible, look at the wrecking of the landscape, will never replace horsepower. Solar is part of the equation, not the entire answer. The efficiency is improving. The cost is generally going down. The technology is mature and we can do it now. I have personally used a combination of solar and wind to live off the grid for a period of 12 years–about 30 years ago! Back when lots of people asked me what are those things when pointing at the solar panels and wind generator. Today the price of both is maybe 1/10 what I paid, and the efficiency is maybe 2 times better, and it is entirely possible that many people could easily make their own homes energy independent if they wanted to. Many more could easily put a few panels on the roof to fee a small battery bank and could keep the lights on and maybe the furnace running during a power outage. Rugged individualist Adirondackers have always used multiple power sources: wood, hydro, and now they can use sun and wind too. I look at solar like installing that wood furnace in your backyard, and on a larger scale why not use that old, abandoned landfill to generate power, or maybe the rooftop of the supermarket or the skating rink, or maybe the parking lot that could use some shade in the summer and power in the winter? Any of these solar projects could be installed and running now, this year, by you, me, or local installers. Building a nuclear plant anywhere in New York would take decades at the least, even if you can figure out how to safely store highly dangerous toxic waste for a few thousand years.

      • JB says:

        Very good point, Zephyr. Setting aside the question of how much land in NYS is covered by rooftops, landfills, and idle pavement (is it enough?), increased efficiency, hypothetically, could render any land area arguments against solar moot. But, by the same token, wouldn’t we feel foolish if we were to cover 15% of our total land area with soon-to-be obsolete technologies? (An extreme, but not impossible, scenario.)

        Admittedly, there is an immediately realistic scenario where a fully net-zero NYS would not need to import energy (or annex neighboring territory), develop millions of acres for renewables, or build nuclear power plants: reduce consumption relative to total land area. There is an important distinction to be made here, though, between energy consumed per acre and energy consumed per capita. There are places that are far less energy efficient per capita than New York State and still manage to rely virtually exclusively upon renewable energy (more or less domestically produced)–e.g., Quebec’s per-capita electricity consumption is 3x that of New York State (85% of QC households heat with electric as opposed to 12% in NYS), QC total electricity consumption is 50% greater than that of NYS, QC is less urbanized (which makes efficiency harder), and their industrial sector consumes more than 5x more electricity.

        However, NYS has 25x the population density of Quebec (7x for Upstate New York by itself)! NYS is already one of the most, if not the most, energy-efficient and de-industrialised states in the country. But it is also one of the most densely populated. And by no means should we be placing blame for this on NYC. Even for Upstate New York, population density is high enough that it would rank 14th in the country if it were its own state. At some point, we need to question whether there are too many people and too little land to attain our energy goals without sacrificing the environment or some level of sovereignty. …If only everywhere could be more like the Adirondacks…

        • Zephyr says:

          I think you’re off on the relative population density of the Adirondack Park and Quebec, but in any case look at a map of Quebec and note that most of it is unreachable by any road. In other words, most of the province is simply uninhabitable. I’m not sure what your point is. Some here seem to be arguing against a straw man that people want 100% solar power for New York state. Why not instead look at what people really want to do and are already doing? Put solar where it makes sense and in many cases will be invisible to most people. I am simply boggled that people argue against solar when it is simple, clean, already cheaper than traditional power sources, and has very little negative environmental impacts compared to most alternatives. In my experience when solar installations are built, even rather large ones, most people never even notice they are there, and after a few months they are forgotten about except for the people looking at the power numbers coming in and the reduction in cost. We have a couple pretty large ones locally and when I point them out to people they are surprised–they had no idea they were there. By the way, I notice some farmers are arguing for laws to allow them to rent some of their land for solar with the idea that it will save farmland for future use instead of it being turned into housing developments. Sure, maybe after 20-30 years someone will find that there is a better use for the land and solar panels and fields are easily reused in many cases. Try that with a nuclear plant!

          • JB says:

            Zephyr, two points I was trying to make (admittedly not very well). On population density, the Adirondack Park population density is actually lower than that of the entire province of Quebec (14.0/sq. mi vs. 15.6/sq. mi). For comparison, if the entire state had the same population density as the Adirondack Park, all energy (probably including natural gas and refined petroleum products) consumed could easily be supplied by the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant alone. Even if Upstate New York’s population were to shrink by, for example, 50%–rather than 90%–we would already be producing more than enough net-zero energy in Upstate NY to supply all current Upstate electrical energy demand. The point there is really that even more minor reductions in population, coupled with “Smart Growth”-based economic and land-use planning strategies, could go a very long way towards making a renewable transition more feasible (conversely, uncontrolled population growth would have the opposite effect).

            But even that is not the real point. The popular, techno-optimist view of history (which you have summarized above)–that scarcity drives innovation and innovation in turn alleviates scarcity–is relativistic and overly simple. Society did not, in fact, know that it “needed” kerosine (or paraffin) before serendipitous innovation by a small group of individuals manufactured demand. In the long-run, history has shown that innovation manufactures demand, and demand creates scarcity–not the other way around. To frame the green energy transition as an innovation-driven capitalistic process would be a disaster and a missed opportunity. To illustrate why, let’s imagine that 100% efficient photovoltaics–or better yet nuclear fusion–soon reaches commercial viability, providing global civilization with ultra-cheap, seemingly endless energy. From an innovation and economic perspective, this would be, undoubtedly, the pinnacle of human achievement. But, in reality, this alone would be the beginning of the worst environmental and humanitarian disaster in human history. Unbound by natural limits–even those imposed by the inefficiencies of modern fossil fuel-based industrial economies (which are among the most efficient yet invented)–human population and consumption would be free to explode to never-before-seen heights. And the longer that innovation managed to “stave off scarcity”, the worse the ultimate outcome would be. (Everything creates negative externalities.)

            This all may very well seem like a “straw man” argument against “simple, clean, cheap” solar energy. In reality, it is not so simple. Commercially viable 50% or 100% photovoltaics may be further off than space-based solar power or nuclear fusion, or they could be just over the horizon. But such are the real straw man arguments. The ultimate outcome will be the same, regardless of technological innovation, if we do not change our mindsets. Rather than asking how much we can get away with, we need to be asking how much we should be getting away with. This applies to energy, land use, recreation, and human relationships. Essentially, this must be the “green movement”. Anything else will be just as fragile as several trillion panes of photovoltaic glass.

            • Zephyr says:

              So, there is nothing that can be done except to sit around and moan about the problems? Please don’t even bother to try any solutions because we NIMBYs will block everything that isn’t a perfect solution? We would rather just sit here and watch the world burn up, which will happen after we are gone so why bother?

              • JB says:

                Definitely not. That would be another excellent example of inflexible and wishful thinking. By contrast, any changes to the economic paradigm will provide orders of magnitude more bang for buck than technology-based solutions. That is why, in my view, at least half of the NYS Climate Action Council’s Draft Scoping Plan is not concerned with energy generation infrastructure, or even efficiency, but economics. …Albeit, the economic strategy is not anywhere near ambitious enough.

                Technological innovation has no political cost, but broader economic reforms do. That is why we continue to focus on the former and not the latter. “NIMBY” is not a pragmatic term, but a political one. Focusing on what someone else’s backyard may or may not look like has little practical use, other than as an inflammatory remark that perpetuates the economic doom spiral. We should be focusing on our own backyards. …As politically charged as that statement may be.

                • Zephyr says:

                  NIMBYism isn’t a political term when people are literally saying build it somewhere else! The reason people hate the term is because it accurately points out their hypocrisy. Page 1 of the NYS Climate Action Council’s Draft Scoping Plan lists these items leading off the report, including 6,000 MW of distributed solar by 2025:
                  Carbon neutral economy, mandating at least an
                  85% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels
                  40% reduction in emissions by 2030
                  100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040
                  70% renewable electricity by 2030
                  9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035
                  6,000 MW of distributed solar by 2025
                  3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030
                  185 TBtu on-site energy savings by 2025
                  Commitments to climate justice and just transition

                  • JB says:

                    Zephyr, you’re not saying anything that is completely untrue, and I don’t want to be argumentative for the sake of it. But, bear with me, I’m struggling to understand the logic: NIMBYism is inherently, ontologically bad because people don’t want something in their own backyard–they want it in someone else’s backyard, and that someone else doesn’t want it in their own backyard either? So who is the “real” bad guy? Both? If that does not sound like a political argument, then I don’t know what does.

                    I’d say neither is a “bad guy”. It is the ultimatum that is bad. There are other options, as hard as it can be to break free from the antagonistic foisting of things upon each other’s backyards. Luckily, I don’t think that page 1 of the Draft Scoping Plan is presenting us with such an ultimatum, and, if it is, there are 340 remaining pages full of options and opinions.

                    Again, technological cynicism and emphasis on the economic interconnectedness are not uniquely my opinions. We have already seen the injustice that technological innovation can bring, and this is widely discussed even in popular media. In fact, many anthropologists and industrial sociologists blame technological innovation for nearly all modern class and race-based inequality (I could recommend a few great case studies). Even technology has limits: technology alone will not engender environmental and social justice, and it will not resolve political debates. …Hence the need to do things differently this time around, as clearly recognized by the Climate Action Council. I think that we can agree on that, at least.

                    • TM says:

                      JB, I disagree with your logic when you wrote “NIMBYism is inherently, ontologically bad because people don’t want something in their own backyard–they want it in someone else’s backyard, and that someone else doesn’t want it in their own backyard either?” You erroneously jump to the conclusion the the other person doesn’t want it in their backyard either. That other other person may likely take some responsibility to save the earth by accepting some perceived detrimentally aesthetic looking solar field in their community–like a lot of Vermonters do. A NIMBY has to look themselves in the mirror and honestly ask themselves “Am I willing to step up and make some sacrifice of some visual aesthetics and have a clean energy source in my community that replaces burning fossil fuels that emit climate changing gases that are harming our environment?” I agree with Zephyr in that we have to be realistic, pragmatic, and committed to action now in order to solve this crisis on time, before it’s too late.

                    • JB says:

                      TM, the great thing about land-use planning (LUP)–which imposes inherent limitations on the distribution of large-scale energy projects–is that it is the beginning of a holistic economic strategy and a necessary paradigm shift. Even acknowledging the primacy of land–as something more than a commodity–can be a world-changing concept for an economically liberal society.

                      I’m suggesting that there is a way to stop thinking about “Mine” vs. “Yours” altogether–this includes “Not in My Backyard” versus “In Your Backyard”, but certainly it should go without saying that this must also include “Yes In My Backyard”. Instead, there is a way to think about the collective “Our Backyard”, and it is far more pragmatic and realistic than one might think.

                      In fact, without high-level LUP–that is, if we leave everything up to the “me-versus-you” of markets and politics–there can be no pragmatic and sustainable strategy at all. The APA Act gets this right in a big way, as much as many seem to be bent on circumventing its foundational tenets. New York State is now adopting LUP not just as part of its Climate Act strategy, but also as a larger economic strategy. Even Vermont has an LUP strategy (NRB with guidance from Act 250, and FPR with guidance from the 2017 Forest Action Plan), and, shortcomings aside, the Green Mountain State would hardly look the same today were it not for this. Make no mistake, these economic and institutional frameworks are the foundation for something greater than any one of us, representing the culmination of more than 50 years of behind-the-scenes work by thousands of planners. (LUP in fact has a precedent in sustainable land use traditions that go back more than 1,000 years Western Europe.) In no case, in any of that work, will anyone find the kind of back-and-forth about NIMBYism that we see here.

                      Without this essential part of the economic equation–the primacy of land–we are our own inevitable worst enemies, trapped in an endless feedback loop. Anything that we do to address inequality can only make it worse. History has shown us this. Without LUP, enclaves grow, sprawl, and socially stratify, leaving behind a decaying urban core. With comprehensive LUP, we get mixed-use development, sustainable economies, and environmental justice. Without LUP, we get extractive frontiers, cronyism, and economic inefficiency. With comprehensive LUP, we get environmental conservation, institutional accountability, and sustainable resource use (including sustainable energy infrastructure). It is in this vein that I’m calling out “YIMBYism” for utility-scale solar. (Though, I agree, I would be a hypocrite to oppose distributed–“home”–solar, since I’ve installed and used this myself!)

                      For sure, there is a way to go towards comprehensive LUP, and formidable barriers to break through. But what is the biggest barrier of all? Politics. And, as much as citizens like to shift the blame, “we”–the economic individualists–are the ultimate source of it all. Let’s get away from that, and throw our lot in with the true civic “We”. That is the idea that republics are founded upon. Ours has strayed more than most others, and hence, the reckoning will be all the more hard to swallow.

  27. TM says:

    JB, I found your response confusing and unpragmatic. First, can you define “high-level land-use planning”? You wrote that “land-use planning (LUP) is the beginning of a holistic economic strategy and a necessary paradigm shift.” Land-use planning has been around a long time and it has developed into many things according to the voting of local constituencies. It is not the Utopian approach that you infer. Land-use planning has had some dark sides because some of those with power and influence are corrupt and seek personal gain.
    To be concise, to change land-use planning so that it is fair and equitable may take a long time, and even then, it may not be obtained. We don’t have the time to muck around attempting to achieve some utopian goal that may never be achieved. We have the facts about climate change. We know pretty much what we need to do to slow down and reverse the trend of rising CO2 that is causing dramatic damage to our environment. In a very short time, we need to implement policies to rebuild a non-fossil fuel infrastructure. And we need cooperation and action at all levels to beat this. The time is now!

    • JB says:

      TM, since this is an Adirondack debate, it is assumed that “land-use planning” does not refer to anything like the “Homeowner Association”, which I think is what you are referring to. The term is instead referring to what is sometimes called “urban planning” in the United States, or more aptly, “regional planning”, in the tradition of Ian McHarg, Randall Arendt, Jane Jacobs, etc. The only serious critiques that I am aware of for this type of planning, which is commonly referred to in government and academia simply as “land-use planning”, are economic arguments (i.e., less production of capital than free markets) and sovereignty arguments (i.e., opposition to institutional meddling in local or individual affairs). Unlike often anti-environmental and elitist groups like HOAs, LUP is focused on apoliticism, consensus and environmental sustainability (for example, through conservation design). I do understand that these two different kinds of practices are often conflated in popular political discourse, and I apologize if that was not clear.

      I have brought the term into this debate because I believe that it is necessary when talking about NIMBYism/YIMBYism. There is an entire world between these two poles, and we’re not going to be able to explore all of that here. But consider that NIMBYism/YIMBYism is not really about “backyards”, and it is not really about utility-scale solar power. Few private citizens even have backyards big enough for utility-scale energy projects, which we need to remember are a commercial activity at this point. …And yet, private citizens and politicians perpetuate these terms (with the help of some lobbyists). The real, pragmatc debate here is about the mechanisms for achieving sustainable land use–whether that be LUP, free markets, authoritarianism, libertarianism, etc.

      Such debates have been incedibly fruitful throughout history, whereas dichotomizing has not. Still, this is not simple. It is not possible to separate pragmatic discussions from deeply-held ideologies instilled by life experience and personal interest–nor should it be. Zephyr and I have disagreed, using these very same lines of argument, about many other topics having nothing to do with solar power. He has been a proponent of economic growth (or at least revitalization) in the Adirondack Park, and an opponent of mechanisms that curtail it–e.g., population decline, disinvestment, and, yes, some forms of LUP (also: access restrictions for public lands). (Zephyr, please correct me if I’m mistaken.) Just as now, he sees one path as leading towards justice, whereas I see the opposite. This is not to say that we do not both ultimately want the same thing–a sustainable and just world–but we disagree on the mechanisms to get there.

      And this brings me to my final point: I agree that cooperation is essential! As unpragmatic as it may seem sometimes, discussions like these are how we get there! But we need to bring with us to these debates–from our own proverbial “backyards”–a value of mutual respect and a desire for understanding (including self-reflection). That is how we learn and grow, and how we ensure justice for everyone, even those who we may not be inclined to consider. …And this is why myself and many others continue to enage in discussions like these, whenever we can, for however long it takes (maxing out WordPress’s comment nesting today was a first, even for me). This is how positive change happens, and I can tell you that I have seen it, and it is happening right now, untelevised, unbroadcasted, in small rooms around the world. (None of this is painless enough to be utopian.) The conflation of issues and the well-worn unilateralism of “we don’t have time”–that is how corruption and injustice prevail.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!