Solar Farm Rejected Amid Fears It Will 'Suck Up The Sun's Energy'

Some residents were concerned it would stop plants from growing and cause cancer.

15/12/2015 1:10 AM AEDT | Updated 18/12/2015 11:10 PM AEDT
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North Carolina ranks fourth on the solar power charts in the U.S.

A town council in North Carolina rejected plans to rezone land for a solar farm after residents voiced fears it would cause cancer, stop plants from growing and suck up all the energy from the sun.

Two citizens reportedly made the allegations at a Woodland Town Council meeting in Northampton County, northeastern North Carolina, on Wednesday.

Bobby Mann said the farm would "suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland," the Roanoke-Chowan Herald-News reports.

His wife, Jane, a retired science teacher, feared the proposed solar ranch could hinder photosynthesis -- the process of converting light energy from the sun into chemical energy for fuel -- in the area and stop plants from growing.

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She added that no one could tell her solar panels didn't cause cancer.

Other residents feared the effect it would have on the price of their homes. 

Councilors were voting on whether to redefine agriculturally designated land off U.S. Highway 258 for manufacturing. 

Strata Solar Company representative Brent Niemann told the meeting the only sunlight used would be that which fell on the panels directly. "The panels don't draw additional sunlight," he said.

Niemann told councilors that the farm would have no effect on property prices and promised that no toxic substances would be kept on site.

But Woodland Town Council turned down the proposal, effectively stopping the company from building the planned renewable energy ranch. The council later voted to put a moratorium on future solar farms in the area, the Herald-News reports.

Social media users mocked the town council’s ruling after it was reported and officials received a barrage of hate mail. Councilor Ron Lane told The News & Observer that the town had since received profanity-laced voice mails and enraged emails from people around the country.

After the backlash, councilors stressed that the decision was not solely based on the comments of the Manns.

Lane told the publication that three major solar farms had been given the go-ahead in the past 12 months due to zoning changes. Woodland would have been too cramped for a fourth solar installation. In some places, the Strata Solar proposal would have been just 50 feet from residential homes, he said. 

"This would have completely boxed the town in with solar farms," Lane told the News & Observer. "We're not opposed to the solar farm itself, just that particular location."

Bobby Mann, 67, later denied that he said that the panels would drain energy from the sun. He told Charlotte Magazine that had only asked: "what kind of effect is that going to have on the sun?"

Town clerk Kim Bryant, who typed the meeting's minutes, insisted that he had made the energy-sucking statement. "But honest to goodness, the town board did not base their decision on that," she told the publication.

Solar Power World Online ranks North Carolina fourth in the U.S. for installed solar power capacity, with 161 companies employing 3,100 people in the industry.

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