Published On: Sun, Feb 11th, 2024

Planetary Lifeguard™ Blows the Whistle On Banning Clean Energy Plants

As an author I oppose banning books.  As a descendant of immigrants, I’m against banning border crossings, especially if migrants are truly seeking asylum for safety.  Control yes.  Bans No!  

And as a Planetary Lifeguard™, another one I’m definitely against is banning clean energy plants while we’re in the midst of such havoc caused by climate change.  

Why, when we’re struggling in America to expand our power grid to combat Climate Change, is there this weird gap growing between what’s needed to produce clean energy and what’s allowed?

With costly climate disasters occurring more frequently, why are we making it so difficult for the U.S. to reach 100% clean energy by 2035?   Existentially speaking, why are we taking such a strange, disjointed, path to get to where we need to go?

Planetary Lifeguard™ sees our best hope to attain this goal is to keep building solar and wind power fast, but now that’s running into bumps, setbacks, even walls.   A nationwide analysis by USA TODAY shows local governments are banning green energy plants faster than they’re being built.

What?   Amazing as it sounds, that’s what’s happening.  Analysis shows at least 15% of counties in the U.S. have effectively halted new utility-scale wind, solar, or both, through outright bans, moratoriums, construction impediments and other conditions making green energy incredibly challenging, if not impossible to build.

Ironically, these impediments come just as a gigantic effort is underway to expand  green energy predicted to reach nearly 20% by 2025, surpassing the amount of electricity made from coal last year.

Planetary Lifeguard™ believes that to meet U.S. green energy goals we must increase wind and solar radically over the next decade, not slow down, yet those projects are becoming harder to execute. 

What is Planetary Lifeguard™?  It’s an organization dedicated to blowing the whistle on climate change by promoting green energy and recognizing companies whose products help to clean not befoul our environment like carbon emissions do and other pollutants despoiling our land, sea and air.  

According to USA TODAY, in the past decade, about 180 counties got their first commercial wind-power project.

Still, more than twice as many counties blocked wind developments. And while solar power has found more broad acceptance, 2023 was the first year to see almost as many individual counties block new solar projects as those adding their first project. As a result, some of the nation’s most appropriate places for wind and solar power have now been cut from the race. 

Because large-scale solar and wind projects typically are built outside city limits, USA TODAY’s analysis focused on restrictions by the county-level governments that have jurisdiction. In a few cases, such as Connecticut, Tennessee and Vermont, entire states have implemented near-statewide restrictions.

While 15% of America’s counties might sound like a small portion, the trend has significant consequences as its 15% of what experts consider the most highly productive areas to develop wind and solar. If this keeps up, goals may become much more difficult to achieve.

The country’s green-energy deadline now is just 11 years away. But even if politicians fail to meet that goal, another clock is ticking.  As Planetary Lifeguard™ and others keep pointing out, 2023, was the warmest year in recorded history, warmer than any other in 125,000 years. 

As climate keeps rising in temperature, so do threats to coastal cities from stronger hurricanes in the Atlantic along with more severe storms across the continent, increasing drought on the Great Plains, and more devastating wildfires in the West. 

Construction isn’t happening fast enough to meet the country’s green energy needs also say professors of energy resources at major universities.

Shift to green energy meeting untimely bans.

The transition to green energy has been a bumpy road, involving a profound national shift, a move from mostly coal burning power plants to natural gas, now to new wind and solar installations. That also meant shifting much of the nation’s energy generation to new regions, specifically the large wind belt across the middle of the country and the sunny southeast and southwest.

Clean energy includes other emissions-free sources such as nuclear (18%) and hydropower (6%). But both of those are unlikely to see major expansion in the U.S. due to their controversial nature.  And sources such as rooftop solar panels on houses or businesses, while helpful, provide only a tiny fraction of the total power supply. 

One of the leading innovators in rooftop solar is still taking the industry to higher levels.  SOLARBACKUSA, a Florida-based initiative led by Joshua Schuster is converting vacant commercial roof space into solar farms, generating clean energy and passive income for property owners, which many believe will be a game changer.

Several coastal states in the Northeast made plans to rely on offshore wind turbines, but a wave of disinformation in 2023, falsely claiming offshore wind projects killed whales, caused a sharp decline in public support.  A sharp increase in solar and wind farms big enough to replace power plants, each one powering tens of thousands of homes, appears the only practical way to shift from fossil fuels quickly.

The total amount of energy a solar plant can make varies widely based on size and location. The average-size solar plant today can power about 20,000 homes. A field of wind turbines can be similar, as each turbine can power about 1,000 homes.

Wind power gained momentum in the early 2000s thanks to better technology and tax incentives, but the number of new wind projects opening annually peaked in the early 2010s and has slowed ever since.

Utility-scale solar plants, using solar panels that have grown dramatically more efficient, have proliferated in the last decade. The U.S. added a record 33 gigawatts of solar power in 2023 and solar is expected to grow 75% by 2025. More than 1,000 counties now host solar farms.  However, opposition also has shot up.  According to USA TODAY’s analysis, of the 116 counties implementing bans or impediments to utility-scale solar plants, half did so in 2023 alone.

Much as places like Texas and Alaska grew rich when drilling companies struck oil, solar and wind power can bring in both construction work and cash, in the form of leases and tax revenue from the power plants. In all, the nation will get about 12% of its electricity supply from wind, and about 7% from utility scale solar by 2025, a long way from the 60 to 80% Planetary Lifeguard™ sees us needing besides nuclear and hydropower.

Many forms of impediments

Local obstructions sometimes take the form of outright bans or moratoriums. But other rules also block green power: burdensome limits on size, height, locations. Some places put caps on total size or implement complex rules that prevent solar from replacing specially designated areas such as “prime farmland.”  These limits can mean wind or solar farms are allowed in theory, but may be impossible to build practically.

USA TODAY’s analysis considered a variety of limits to determine which ones were restrictive enough to effectively block new power projects, such as a “setback” requirement for wind turbines. The larger the setback – a mandatory distance from a neighboring property line or structure – the larger the plot of land required for each turbine and the fewer that can be built. 

Some counties in Nebraska are reported to have 3-mile setbacks for wind turbines, so if you have a square plot of land, you will need 36 square miles for a single wind turbine site.  Solar farms might be allowed, but subject to size restrictions that make them impractical.

Other jurisdictions create shadow bans of all sorts. Projects might not technically be banned, but officials simply reject all green energy plans on a case-by-case basis. Energy developers reported one third of the wind and solar siting applications they had submitted in the past five years were canceled, while about half were delayed for six months or more.

As models show that when we reduce our nation’s wind and solar resources through measures like local ordinances, Planetary Lifeguard™ believes it could slow down the process of decarbonization, making it much more expensive.

 Why do people want bans? 

The opposition to renewable energy isn’t as simple as left vs. right or big business vs. small. Many groups fight renewables and the range of objections is broad.

Then there’s the paradox of some national think tanks and groups that receive fossil fuel funding who have been putting out arguments, often false, opposing wind and solar power for years. 

Then ironically, sometimes big utility companies making money with fossil fuels also seek to build solar farms or wind turbines, which Planetary Lifeguard™ regards as talking out of both sides of your mouth.

And while opponents say solar and wind farms destroy the agricultural way of life, farmers themselves are often the ones who want to build green power, finding they’re simply swapping one crop requiring the sun – corn or soy – for another, electricity. For wind, turbines can easily be placed in working fields or rangeland.

Still, proposals for green energy plants have drawn local opposition as virulent as any book-banning controversy.

Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking.  The temperature keeps rising!

Tom Madden, the founder of Planetary Lifeguard™, is PR professional determined to make the character he created stand for safety and common sense when it comes cleaning and safeguarding our environment.  If you’re swimming in the ocean and you get caught in a rip current, you don’t exhaust yourself trying to swim against it, he says.  You swim laterally to it and eventually out of its clutches, out of out of harm’s way.  Madden is the author of many books, articles and blogs and is CEO of the acclaimed international public relations firm TransMedia Group.

About the Author

- Sharing timely, newsworthy weekly blogs by the one and only Thomas J. Madden at and other newsworthy topics from his mighty PR firm TransMedia Group.

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