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  • - [Narrator] A wave of development

  • is rippling through the windy

  • and sunny parts of the United States.

  • In the Midwest, newer and bigger wind turbines

  • are rankling the locals,

  • and fights over solar farms have broken out

  • in California and Virginia as well.

  • In these fights property rights advocates

  • and environmentalists have joined forces

  • to push back against clean energy.

  • New research says that if this movement continues,

  • it could stall the country's green energy transition.

  • - We used to think that there's sufficient land

  • for the wind that is needed,

  • but now we believe that there could be

  • some land use conflicts that would actually hit

  • some of the limits to wind development.

  • - [Narrator] The fights about solar and wind

  • are all about how land is used.

  • In several parts of rural America,

  • locals say that the installations

  • are dominating the landscapes.

  • - So these projects are as big as they are

  • because that's what makes them as cheap as they are.

  • - [Narrator] Samantha Gross,

  • who studies energy security at the Brookings Institution

  • says that, "Most US wind turbines are roughly 500 feet tall

  • and are spaced more than half a mile apart.

  • These installations can be seen for miles."

  • - You have projects being put in place in those areas

  • where people aren't used to seeing a lot of development,

  • and they're there because that's where they need to be,

  • but they can generate public opposition

  • because they're a real change to the use of the land.

  • - [Narrator] Researchers say that,

  • "It takes at least 10 times as much land

  • to develop renewables when compared to fossil fuels."

  • - Well, if you think about making electricity

  • from natural gas and the kind of land footprint that has,

  • it's about one 10th of the land area, per unit of power

  • that you have for a wind facility,

  • You can do other things with that land.

  • You can farm underneath it, have it for pasture land,

  • but still that land will be occupied by the wind facility.

  • - [Narrator] Despite these land use issues,

  • financiers and leaders in Washington

  • are pouring money into new green energy projects.

  • - What we as a country should do

  • is make smart, sustainable investments

  • with appropriate financing

  • to make this nation more productive,

  • to advance America's leadership in clean energy,

  • to win the jobs of the future,

  • or mitigate the threat of climate change.

  • - [Narrator] The high level of interest in clean energy

  • is causing controversy as the rubber

  • hits the road out in the country.

  • Several states in the US wind quarter

  • are grappling with how to deploy

  • more renewables for the grid.

  • The state of Indiana started to experiment

  • with utility scale wind power in 2008, as of 2021,

  • 40 of the state's 92 counties

  • have some amount of wind or solar development,

  • but a groundswell of activism

  • has taken over county and state level politics.

  • Citizens across Indiana have campaigned

  • against new clean energy developments,

  • arguing that the structures are an economic scam

  • that will be a nuisance to public health,

  • biodiversity, and local property values.

  • The movement gained influence over the years.

  • As of 2021, more than 30 Indiana counties

  • have restricted the development of utility scale renewables.

  • Many use setback requirements,

  • which determine how far away projects must be removed

  • from existing properties.

  • This tactic can keep turbines away from homes

  • which reduces the flickering shadows

  • and noise created by the installations.

  • But some residents would like to see the bans

  • on renewables come to an end.

  • - There are folks who were saying,

  • "Wait a minute, my county lost

  • millions of dollars in tax revenue."

  • - [Narrator] State legislators like Ed Soliday,

  • a Republican representing Valparaiso, Indiana,

  • say that the restrictions may harm the region's economy.

  • In 2021, Soliday wrote and introduced House Bill 1381,

  • which would have prevented counties

  • from issuing outright bans on wind and solar projects.

  • - The one thing we know for sure

  • is there's a market for renewable energy,

  • and we can either pay ever rising transmission costs

  • to buy it from someone else,

  • or we can participate in the market here in Indiana.

  • - [Narrator] The bill introduced by Soliday

  • died in the state's 2021 legislative session

  • as locals pushed back.

  • He says a similar battle is unfolding over solar energy.

  • - That same group that opposed wind

  • has now come up with health arguments,

  • visual arguments against solar panels.

  • And most of those will not stand up to peer review.

  • - It's important that these projects are designed

  • to be serving the community as a whole.

  • Because if they're not designed that way,

  • it can lead to downstream flooding.

  • It can lead to resentment and therefore antagonism,

  • and therefore opposition to these projects.

  • - [Narrator] Jesse Kharbanda is the executive director

  • at the Hoosier Environmental Council.

  • His group supports renewable energy

  • but they argue that locals should maintain control

  • over how development is managed.

  • - By the end of the decade,

  • the overall land footprint of the solar farms in Indiana

  • could be of the size

  • of the entire Indiana State Park system.

  • And so how solar farms are designed

  • in the backdrop of climate change really matters

  • because they can act as an agent for community resilience

  • in the face of more intense and more frequent flooding,

  • or they could exacerbate it if they're designed poorly.

  • - [Narrator] Critics say that the solar farms

  • will eliminate farmland and could disrupt natural habitats.

  • Similar conflicts have broken out across the plains

  • of Kansas and Ohio in the sunny California desert

  • and along the windy Northern Atlantic coast.

  • Plans for wind farms in the Northeast

  • were introduced in the 2000s.

  • But as of 2021,

  • little had been built beyond a five turbine project

  • near Rhode Island, that didn't keep developers

  • from pursuing the area.

  • Biden officials have given final approval

  • to a $2.8 billion project to place 84 turbines,

  • 12 miles off the coast of Nantucket island.

  • Researchers at National Renewable Energy Laboratory

  • are modeling how these political battles

  • will affect the country's energy supply.

  • - It's very difficult to capture people within models.

  • The social or human side is always hard to distill

  • into a set of equations.

  • - [Narrator] Trieu Mai is a senior energy analyst

  • at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

  • His team's research shows that the US has enough

  • wind resources to power the grid,

  • but the local opposition movements

  • are starting to limit the supply of land

  • that can be used for wind farms.

  • When Mai's team modeled out a scenario

  • where populated counties keep banning renewables

  • development was concentrated

  • into the relatively unsettled mountain west.

  • - We never expected land to be a constraint for wind

  • and renewable deployment

  • for all the energy needs that we have.

  • But now that we've looked into this further

  • land use conflicts is a very important issue here.

  • - [Narrator] Experts say that the bans on renewables

  • will push up the costs of the energy transition.

  • That's because wind and solar

  • are among the cheapest sources of energy

  • according to levelized cost estimates

  • from the consulting agency Lazard.

  • Renewables have been deemed critical

  • to the future of the global economy,

  • but the backlashes unfolding in the US

  • show a latent risk as the green energy markets heat up.