Wind and Solar—Not in PA’s Backyard
Because wind and solar facilities can only collect the wind and sun available at the moment of collection (as opposed to wood and fossil fuels which collected sunlight for decades or millennia before their use), wind and solar facilities harvest relatively small quantities of energy. To gather meaningful quantities of energy, wind and solar facilities trade space for time; in other words, wind and solar facilities are large and take up more surface area than most other energy sources.
Wind and solar facilities result in a great quantity of environmental disruption. The fact that wind and solar are termed “clean” doesn’t diminish: 1) the need to clear large swaths of trees/vegetation for installation; 2) soil disturbance associated with all of the roads and transmission lines; and 3) the destruction of flora and fauna habitat and the killing of birds by turbines.
Beyond the environmental disruption of wind and solar’s large footprints, the space requirements of wind and solar facilities are in competition with other needs, such as space for agriculture, space for residences, recreation and the like. Estimates vary, but to produce the comparable amount of energy, solar panels consume about 40 times the area of a hydroelectric dam and reservoir, 250 times the area of a nuclear electric plant, and about 350 times the area of an offshore oil platform.
Not surprisingly, there is surging NIMBY opposition to wind and solar panels. Here’s The List Of 317 Wind Energy Rejections The Sierra Club Doesn’t Want You To See (forbes.com) One of the most interesting cases of wind turbine opposition is the PA Game Commission (PGC). The PGC controls 1.5 million acres of PA land, with significant portions being ridgetops desirable for wind turbines. Over the last several years the PGC denied 19 wind-development projects citing “adverse impacts of critical and unique wildlife habitats,” “degradation of forest interior/core habitat for…(various) birds” and the worry about the “need for safety zones around the towers” due to turbine blades throwing ice and other near-tower safety issues.
Then in 2018 the PGC issued a blanket moratorium against wind turbines! The PGC is not ignorant of the desirability of renewable energy, and in its moratorium resolution the PGC “recognizes the significant value of exploring alternative energy resources and renewable energy initiatives within (Pennsylvania). Nevertheless, the moratorium cites the adverse impact of wind turbines and the State’s Constitutional provision that “the public natural resources of (Pennsylvania), including State Game Lands and their associated flora and fauna, are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.” The resolution concludes “that wind energy development on State Game Lands (is) inconsistent with the responsibilities of the PGC under both the Game and Wildlife Code and…the Pennsylvania Constitution.” In other words, the PGC has concluded that the environmental impact of wind turbines is bad for generations yet to come.
The PGC allows drilling for natural gas upon its properties.