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An activist group is stopping rural US solar farms with lies

An investigation by NPR and Floodlight into a nonprofit group using false propaganda to stop rural solar energy projects across the US is a must-read.

The story, by Floodlight’s Miranda Green and NPR’s Michael Copley, is about Citizens for Responsible Solar, a group that was started in 2019. The group has adopted anti-wind activist strategies, and it’s worked with local groups to fight solar projects in at least nine states, according to its website.

Farmers who want to put solar farms on their land are having that opportunity stolen from them, because Citizens for Responsible Solar is falsely claiming that “large solar projects in rural areas wreck the land and contribute to climate change, despite evidence to the contrary,” writes Green and Copley.

Ryan Kellman/NPR, with permission from NPR. The photo is of farmer Roger Houser in Page County, Virginia, and it’s captioned in the original story: “I find it funny that the signs say ‘No solar on our farmland,'” Houser says. “I’ve asked a couple of [opponents] if they’d like to come help make hay in June, and none of them have volunteered to come help with their farmland.”

Citizens for Responsible Solar is not a grassroots group – it was founded by Washington insider Susan B. Ralston, a White House aide during the George W. Bush administration who resigned after being entangled in two scandals, according to the New York Times.

Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, says in the NPR/Floodlight story:

I think for years, there has been this sense that this is not all coincidence. That local groups are popping up in different places, saying the same things, using the same online campaign materials.

[It’s a] national effort to foment local opposition to renewable energy.

What that reflects is the unfortunate politicization of climate change, the politicization of energy, and, unfortunately, the political nature of the energy transition, which is really just a necessary response to an environmental reality.

You can read the full investigative article here.

Electrek’s Take

Top comment by crawdiddle

Liked by 27 people

I think in the last few years we've been seeing more rural renewable energy projects being defeated by local politics. I was attributing it to NIMBY and local anti-environmental types but this would indicate there is a coordinated, national effort to prevent these projects.

Quite disappointing to say the least.

View all comments

I’ve noticed a lot more anti-solar propaganda popping up in my Google Alerts, which is worrying on two fronts. One, anti-solar lies are being picked up by local media outlets who don’t appear to be fact checking, and two, Google is legitimizing these false articles.

Now I know it’s being coordinated at a national level. When NPR’s media relations manager contacted me today about this investigative piece, I was happy to amplify their findings.

We at Electrek don’t often cover other media coverage, but this story exposes lies that are proving to be deeply impactful. Preventing the adoption of renewables across the US would be potentially devastating on not just a local level, but on a global scale. And to get away with it with lies would be tragic.

Read more: These new vertical solar systems are specially designed for farms

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.