“Not in my back yard” (NIMBY) is having an effect on President Biden’s “green transition,” where many property owners do not want high-powered transmission lines, wind turbines, or solar panels in their back yard. Now, it appears that battery factories are also in that category. Ford is planning to build an EV battery factory in Michigan that promises to employ 2,500 people. Factory revival is a centerpiece of “Bidenomics,” and the Biden administration has pushed through legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act, Infrastructure bill and CHIPS Act that inject direct funding and tax incentives for manufacturing construction targeted at things the government wants people to buy. After Ford’s battery project was announced in February, residents complained and signs on roadsides read: “Stop the Megasite.” Opponents contend the battery project was rushed through final approvals and could cause environmental damage as the factory is being built on former farm fields and woodlands next to a winding river just outside the city. Residents worry that battery manufacturing could lead to accidents, which could allow lithium—a volatile element–to leach into the groundwater.


Fast Facts

  • Public rejection of the demands for land and resources which accompany President Biden’s “green transition” Is growing.
  • With trillions in new spending through various bills to pursue Biden’s climate commitments to the United Nations, the residents of rural communities are bearing the brunt of the impacts and they are fighting back.
  • About 160 communities have rejected or restricted solar projects since 2017, and since 2015, about 360 communities have rejected or restricted wind projects.
  • Now, residents are fighting Ford’s huge battery plant in Michigan.


Ford’s Battery Plant Plan

Ford indicates that its plant design includes plans for safety features such as double-walled tanks, dedicated piping to collect industrial wastewater, and special fencing to prevent soil run-off into the nearby Kalamazoo River. Ford secured 750 acres zoned for industrial development since the 1960s and two adjacent parcels that added about 1,100 acres for its “megasite”. Ford will use about 950 acres, with a portion of that set aside as a conservation easement along the river. The rest has been earmarked by economic development officials for suppliers and other developments. Ford also plans to license a Chinese company’s technology in the project, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL), along with services provided by CATL. Ford argues that CATL’s involvement is “limited” and the plant’s ownership is 100 percent Ford’s. CATL is the foremost EV battery manufacturer in the world.

Solar Project NIMBY

Last year was a record year for the number of solar energy projects that were rejected by rural communities in the United States. Nearly 80 rural governments either banned or restricted solar energy projects in 2022. Land-use conflicts have hindered its growth in both the United States and Europe for years, and opposition seems to grow as people become familiar with the installations.  As more projects get proposed, more rural communities are objecting. Across the United States, about 106 communities have rejected or restricted solar projects since 2017. More than 40 Ohio townships adopted measures last year that prohibit the construction of large solar or wind projects, or both.  People opposing these projects are landowners–local farmers, local residents, and local business people. Despite the rejections, solar capacity in the United States increased more than four-fold between 2015 and 2022, spurred by federal subsidies and state mandates.

Wind Project NIMBY

The number of wind rejections also increased last year, with 55 communities enacting ordinances or other measures that prohibit the installation of large wind facilities. Since 2015, about 360 communities across the United States have rejected or restricted wind projects because towns do not want to be swamped by forests of 600-foot-high wind turbines. Noise pollution is another problem with wind energy. Dave and Rose Enz, residents of Denmark, Wisconsin, abandoned their home due to noise from wind turbines that were built too close to the house they had owned for decades. The harmful health impact that noise pollution from big turbines can have on human health is a problem that was documented in 2009 by the Minnesota Department of Health.  Despite those rejections, however, U.S. installed wind capacity nearly doubled between 2015 and 2022 due to federal incentives and state mandates.

Wind and Solar Power’s Low Power Density

Land-use conflicts are a binding constraint on the growth of renewables as wind and solar energy have low power density, which means that to displace large quantities of fossil fuels will require huge amounts of land. Princeton University produced a model to predict how much new wind and solar capacity could be built due to the funds that Congress appropriated for renewables in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The land required for the hundreds of megawatts of new wind and solar under the IRA would require a land area about the size of Tennessee.


Rural communities in Michigan, New York, Ohio, and other states are blocking wind and solar projects and battery plants because they are concerned about their neighborhoods, view sheds, and property values. Some are expressing concerns over the rising cost of electricity, which in places with high renewable portfolios such as California are seeing rapid increases. These rejections are hurting President Biden’s green energy transition as he and his administration were hoping that the $127 billion appropriated for renewables under the Inflation Reduction Act will catalyze a massive buildout of new solar and wind projects and that the billions more appropriated for battery plants would jump start a huge electric vehicle market in the Unites States. But the reality is that land-use conflicts have been hindering the growth of those projects and have for years. Rural Americans are fighting back against wind, solar and battery plant projects because they want to retain the character of their townships, ranches, farms, waterways and villages, and there is growing concern about the downsides of the land demands of renewable energy.

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