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How do people feel about living near a big solar farm in the Mountain West and beyond?

Building more solar farms, like this one in a California desert, is one strategy The Nature Conservancy says will help reduce the infrastructure footprint needed for the West to meet its clean energy needs.
Tom Brewster Photography for the Bureau of Land Management
/
Flickr Creative Commons
Building more solar farms, like this one in a California desert, is one strategy The Nature Conservancy says will help reduce the infrastructure footprint needed for the West to meet its clean energy needs.

More than 10 million U.S. homes sit within three miles of a solar farm. A new national survey looks into how people feel about having these large renewable energy projects as their neighbors.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory led a survey of nearly 1,000 people living near a large solar farm in 39 states, including several in the Mountain West: Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. The responses came from people who live near projects built between 2017 to 2021, ranging in size from 1 megawatt to 250 megawatts.

Researchers found positive attitudes about being neighbors to solar developments outnumber negative by nearly a 3-to-1 margin.

But negative attitudes outnumber the positive by a 12-to-1 margin for people living near really big solar farms. Specifically, these are projects that are 100 megawatts or larger and cover thousands of acres of land. In the Mountain West, projects of that scale are spread across landscapes in southern Nevada and central Colorado.

“We're building a whole lot more solar in this country,” said Joe Rand, an energy policy researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and report co-author. “We know that opposition has become a leading cause of delays and cancellations for these projects. And, moreover, I think we want this development to occur in a way that's beneficial to host communities.”

To that end, the survey found people strongly prefer solar projects that create local jobs, support local businesses, and offer local ownership.

Respondents were also more supportive of solar developments built on land already disturbed – like industrial sites and landfills – instead of forests and productive farmland.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

Copyright 2024 KUNR Public Radio

Kaleb Roedel