It's hard to quantify the effect that Citizens for Responsible Solar is having on local debates over solar development. "But I've sure seen their impact," says Ronald Meyers, director of the Renewable Energy Facility Siting project at Virginia Tech. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)
Roger Houser's ranching business was getting squeezed. The calves he raises in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley were selling for about the same price they had a few years earlier, while costs for essentials like fuel and fertilizer kept going up. But Houser found another use for his 500 acres.
An energy company offered to lease Houser's property in rural Page County to build a solar plant that could power about 25,000 homes. It was a good offer, Houser says. More money than he could make growing hay and selling cattle.
"The idea of being able to keep the land as one parcel and not have it split up was very attractive," Houser says. "To have some passive income for retirement was good. And then the main thing was the electricity it would generate and the good it would do made it feel good all the way around."
But soon after he got the offer, organized opposition began a four-year battle against solar development in the county. A group of locals eventually joined forces with a nonprofit called Citizens for Responsible Solar to stop the project on Houser's land and pass restrictions effectively banning big solar plants from being built in the area.