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Renewable Energy Brings Out Some Extreme Nimbyism

Mar 14, 2014

You may have heard of extreme preppers. These are people who spend a large portion of their time preparing themselves, their homes and their families for what they believe is an inevitable disaster resulting from an economic meltdown, the spread of a deadly virus, climate change or another catastrophic event.  And hey, you never know, in the end these preppers may be the heroes of our time.

But have you heard about extreme not-in-my-backyard-ists? You probably haven’t because this isn’t a real phenomenon. At least not yet.  But we’re here to tell you that there are some pretty good examples out there of folks who seem to be willing to go to any extreme to stop a renewable energy project from coming about. 

With that in mind and in the interest of educating developers about what some people might say about their projects, here are a few examples.  Feel free to list your own NIMBY cases in comment section below.

Solar is So Ugly

Take the example of Jim and Frances Babb who spent years battling their local zoning board in a West St. Louis county in Missouri.

The couple simply wanted to install solar panels on their Victorian home and even though their homeowners association gave them a quick approval to do so, once they filled for a permit the city itself tried to pass an ordinance banning solar on the front or sides of a roof, which would have made their project impossible. The small solar industry in the town protested and the ordinance that eventually passed allowed ground mounts and all roof mounts as long as they were parallel to the plane of the roof as long as the homeowner went through planning and zoning and achieved a majority vote of the board of alderman.  The Babb's made it through the P&Z process and received approval, however the alderman voted 6-0 to deny them without offering them a reason.  So they were forced to file a lawsuit.  

A neighbor who was in opposition to the Babbs request said she thought the panels would look “trashy.”  Other neighbors felt that the ugly panels would lower their own home values. 

Even though the Babb’s ultimately prevailed, it took multiple hearings and a lawsuit and considerable added expense before the panels were finally installed.  You can watch a clip from one of the hearings in the video at this link.

The saga is still not over, either. Even though the courts allowed the Babb's to install the panels now the city is up in arms about the permits that it was ordered to issue and never did, according to Frances Babb. Even though the system has been running for 17 months, the city wants the Babbs to apply for a new permit and allow their system to be inspected. The Babb's have countered with their own motion to hold the city in contempt of court and are seeking damages and lawyer's fees.  

Wind Turbines Ruin Views

On a much larger scale of extreme nimbyism, look no further than Cape Wind, a proposed offshore wind farm near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The project has been in the works for more than 10 years and has seen lawsuit after lawsuit be brought against it.  The bottom line and the suspected reason for all of this opposition is that residents of the Cape, among whom are the very famous Kennedy’s, worry that the sight of 130 turbines about 5 miles out to sea will destroy their view of the ocean.

In a press release announcing that Cape Wind has again prevailed in its legal battles, the company noted that “Judge Walton rejected a long list of legal claims project opponents had raised, including arguments over navigational safety, alternative locations, alternative technologies, historic preservation, Native American artifacts, sea turtles, and the adequacy of the project’s environmental impact statement and biological opinions.”

It still remains to be seen if the wind farm will be built and its opponents have vowed to file lawsuit after lawsuit in hopes that the developer will eventually give up.

Even Horses Hate Wind Farms

While most of the Nimby claims come from humans, keep in mind that horses, too, have serious problems with wind farms. According to a story in The Irish Times last month, the bloodstock industry, that is the industry that breeds thoroughbred horses, is worried that Ireland is too lenient on where wind turbines can be sited and is requesting that changes be made to the wind energy development guidelines.

According to the article, a group of four horse organizations — the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, the Irish Jockeys’ Association, the Irish Racehorse Trainers’ Association and the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners — had filed a submission stating that thoroughbreds have “a highly-evolved flight response and were particularly sensitive to perceived visual or auditory threats.”

The submission also claimed that the “safety of the horses, and their riders and handlers could be in danger because of a turbine being located directly within their range of vision or hearing.”

These are just a few examples in an ocean of complaints about renewable energy projects.  List your favorite (or most aggravating) in the comments section below.

Lead image: Hand Holding Stop Sign via Shutterstock


The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.

Jennifer Runyon is chief editor of and Renewable Energy World magazine, coordinating, writing and/or editing columns, features, news stories and blogs for the publications. She also serves as conference chair of Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo, North America. ...


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