Report documents growing local pushback on renewables

By Clare Fieseler | 06/24/2024 06:34 AM EDT

State and city restrictions are blocking and delaying projects, according to Columbia University researchers.

An aerial view shows a wind turbine during a tour for the dedication of the Limestone Wind Project in Dawson, Texas, on February 28, 2023.

An aerial view shows a wind turbine in Dawson, Texas. Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

“Significant” local opposition to solar and wind projects increased by 29 percent last year, as cities and counties passed restrictions on the renewable sources, according to a new report from Columbia University researchers.

In total, the study documented 378 solar and wind projects nationwide facing significant opposition, which researchers from the university’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law defined as being challenged by organized groups, circulated petitions, lawsuits or public administrative proceedings. That compares with 293 projects in 2022.

The study also found a dramatic increase in local laws or resolutions seeking to “block, delay or restrict renewable energy.” It identified 395 such restrictions, a 73 percent increase from 2022. The local provisions — which were mainly adopted by city and county governments — ranged from temporary moratoriums on new solar projects to rules that keep arrays at a distance.


Jacob Elkin, one of the report’s co-authors and a fellow for the Sabin Center’s Renewable Energy Legal Defense Initiative, said the findings signal that tensions over renewables “have moved beyond ‘not in my back yard’ push back.”