Criticism of solar farm proposal garners international attention

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When a Northampton County resident said the building of a new solar farm would "suck up all the energy from the sun," the comment received international attention.

But officials in the small town of Woodland say that concern isn't the reason a solar farm proposal was rejected.

Woodland, which already has three solar farms, is considered a prime area to generate solar power because of an electrical substation near the town limits.

"For them it would be a perfect setup to be near one, because they need to harness the energy," says Mayor Kenneth Manuel.

While the town does not generate any tax revenue off the solar farms, new Mayor Kenneth Manuel says the town is supportive of technology and interested in bringing industry to the area. With that in mind, the Woodland Town Council considered bringing in a fourth solar farm and heard a proposal in a meeting on December 3.

"They were asking to have the property rezoned for the purposes of putting a solar farm there," says the mayor.

But the mayor says some residents rallied against it.

The Roanake-Chowan News Herald reported that Jane Mann "questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her that solar panels didn't cause cancer."

The paper also referred to the comments of another person, saying "the solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland."

Those comments were picked up by the New York Daily News and the International Business Times among others. Manuel says those couple of comments are not the reason the proposal was rejected by a vote of 3 to 1.

"With this 4th solar farm being proposed we're looking at being cornered in on all 4 corners primarily of the town and the citizens of the town felt they did not want that," Manuel said. This was supported by a petition signed by 80 residents.

He says town officials have received "vicious" insults in the days following the meeting.

"The fact that we denied one company or one zoning district to not be rezoned does not mean that we're stupid or ignorant or any of those things. It's not a reflection of the people of Woodland at all."