As Demand for Green Energy Grows, Solar Farms Face Local Resistance


“Ours is a small town and we all know one another and our efforts are not against our neighbors,” said Will Mayer, the executive director of the Clark Coalition, the opposition group. He added that the project could eclipse agricultural use of the region, which has already lost acreage because of other types of development.

One of the projects is backed by Swift Current, which is proposing a 1,200-acre solar farm there. The company has been working with residents to address their concerns, said Mr. Birchby, who added that the project would have “minimal” impact on their view.

“We want to make sure that any project that we’re developing can be a good long-term neighbor and member of the community,” he said.

The other project in Clark County is being developed by Geenex Solar and EDF Renewables. Both companies declined to disclose details, but Kara W. Price, the senior vice president for permitting and development at Geenex, said in an email that when the two companies “are ready to present our potential project to Clark County officials and the community, it will be done in a very public manner and will provide multiple opportunities for discussion and input.”

Because of public concerns, the local government in late summer denied permits for both projects until a comprehensive plan can be made, said Robert Jeffries, the planning and community development director for Winchester, Ky., the largest municipality in Clark County, which has jurisdiction over land use.

To address residents’ concerns, some developers are adding screens to avoid obstructing views and are contributing to community causes to be good neighbors. Others are trying to create pollinator habitats in and around the panels, and some are creating suitable spaces for grazing.

Another solution for developers is agrivoltaics, a technology that allows land to be used for both farming and solar power. Already in limited use in Europe, including in some French vineyards, agrivoltaics are being tested in the United States by developers like BlueWave Solar, a start-up in Boston that has put its raised panels to use in Grafton, Mass., and is about to start a pilot program in Maine to enhance blueberry production, said John DeVillars, co-founder and chairman of BlueWave.



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