A conversation with a woman who promotes renewable energy in rural communities

By Erika Street Hopman and Bridgett Ennis, Yale Climate Connections

The wide-open spaces found in rural America provide some of the best locations for solar and wind farms. But community opposition can stop new projects before they break ground. Mariah Lynne, owner and president of Good Steward Consulting, helps renewable energy companies gain acceptance for new projects in rural communities. In this work, Lynne draws on her experience living in rural Minnesota next door to a utility-scale wind farm. Yale Climate Connections talked to Lynne about what motivates farmers and other rural landowners to embrace renewable energy projects and the misconceptions outsiders might have about small-town communities. Continue Reading Here.

Referenced in the Article: Minnesota’s Stearns County Provides a Unique National Example of a ‘Solar-Ready’ Community, Great Plains Institute
The Great Plains Institute (GPI) worked with Stearns County to engage stakeholders and create transparent and predictable development regulations for solar farm development, including ensuring capture of pollinator habitat and storm water benefits. GPI recently completed a case study (available here) of Stearns County to share their process of engagement, and planning and regulatory review, to get the community ‘solar ready’.

SOLAR READY COMMUNITIES

SolSmart is a national organization that provides free assistance to communities that want to become solar ready. The organization is led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). SolSmart’s mission unites organizations to assist local governments across the U.S. to cut red tape and reduce the barriers to solar within their communities. SolSmart is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.

Local SolSmart Communities

SITING SOLAR ON LANDFILLS & OTHER BROWNFIELDS

Featured Report: The Future of Landfills is Bright: How State and Local Governments Can Leverage Landfill Solar to Bring Clean Energy and Jobs to Communities across America, Rocky Mountain Institute

There are more than 10,000 closed and inactive landfills around the country. These sites offer an incredible opportunity for solar development. By installing solar on closed landfills, states and municipalities advance local solar energy while repurposing relatively large, vacant sites within communities that have limited reuse potential.

Links to More Resources

  • RE-Powering America’s Land
    RE-Powering America’s Land is an EPA initiative that encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites when such development is aligned with the community’s vision for the site.
  • EPA’s Brownfields Program provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties. To learn about EPA’s broader efforts to put previously contaminated properties back into productive use, read about the Land Revitalization Program.
  • Brownfields and Land Revitalization in Region 7
    EPA Region 7 manages  Brownfields and Land Revitalization Programs in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. On this page you will find information specific to Region 7’s Brownfields and Land Revitalization activities. Visit the national Brownfields Program and Land Revitalization Program websites for more information about these programs’ competitive grants.
  • Brownfields FAQs, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy 

CO-LOCATION RESOURCES

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse is an information-sharing, relationship-building, public communications hub for all things agrisolar. The AgriSolar community will:
Connect farmers, developers, researchers, and the public
Provide practical technical assistance
Develop best practices and innovative solutions to barriers
Evaluate innovative financing options
Promote sustainable agrisolar opportunitie

Resources Include: Information Library Media Hub / Events Calendar

More Links

DISTRIBUTED & COMMUNITY WIND

The Future of Distributed Wind in the United States: Considerations for Unlocking Terawatt-Level Potential,
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
NREL’s Distributed Wind Energy Futures Study Finds the Most Promising Locations, Sectors for Distributed Wind To Play a Meaningful Role in the U.S. Energy Future. The Midwest and Heartland regions overall have the highest potential for distributed wind. (A link to NREL’s webinar about the study is provided).

ALSO IN THE NEWS

MORE ABOUT NORFOLK’S COMMUNITY SOLAR PROJECT

Norfolk solar project largest in state, relies on community input, Nancy Gaarder / Omaha World-Herald, Norfolk Daily News

Randy Gates, finance director for Norfolk, said the city will save about $170,000 a year on its electric bills. The city’s residents and businesses will see a total savings of $132,000 a year, he said. NPPD’s next community solar project will be in York.