Tag Archives: Solar Energy

An Unsettling Insight

From Watts Up With That?

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I got to thinking about the classical way to measure the very poorly-named “greenhouse effect”, which has nothing to do with greenhouses. To my knowledge, this method of measuring the greenhouse effect was first proposed by Raval and Ramanathan in a 1989 paper yclept “Observational determination of the greenhouse effect“.

Their method, followed up to the present by most everyone including me, is to subtract the upwelling (space-bound) longwave (LW) radiation measured by satellites at the top of the atmosphere (TOA), from the upwelling surface longwave radiation. Or as they describe it in the paper, which was only about the ocean:

” We obtain G by subtracting longwave radiation escaping to space from estimates of the radiation emitted by the ocean surface.”

This measurement is said to represent the amount of upwelling surface radiation absorbed by the atmosphere. This can be expressed either as watts per square meter, or as a percentage or a fraction of the surface emission.

Figure 1 shows this measurement of the all-sky “greenhouse effect” around the world. It shows the amount of energy absorbed by the atmosphere expressed as a fraction of the underlying surface emission.

Figure 1. Atmospheric upwelling longwave (LW) absorption as a fraction of surface longwave emission.

Figure 1a. As in Figure 1. Changes over time of atmospheric longwave (LW) absorption as a fraction of surface longwave emission.

So … what’s not to like?

Today, while pondering a totally different question, I realized that the Ramanathan measurement, while not useless, is also not accurate. There are two issues I see with the measurement.

Other Energy Inputs To The Atmosphere

About 40 W/m2 of upwelling surface longwave goes directly to space. The rest of the ~240 W/m2 of upwelling LW comes from the atmosphere, not the surface.

The first issue with the Ramanathan method is that the atmosphere only gets about two-thirds of its energy flux from absorbed upwelling surface longwave radiation. The other third of its energy flux comes from two totally different sources— 1) solar energy absorbed by the atmosphere, aerosols, and clouds, and 2) latent (evaporative) and sensible (conductive) heat loss from the surface to the atmosphere.

As a result of these other energy fluxes entering and leaving the atmosphere, changes in the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) longwave measured by satellites using the Ramanathan method may merely reflect changes in solar absorption or changes in latent/sensible heat loss. Here’s the total of the other energy going into the atmosphere.

Figure 2. The sum of two other sources of energy fluxes absorbed by the atmosphere.

As you can see, these other sources of atmospheric energy flux vary over time. Part of this additional energy flux is radiated to space, messing with the Ramanathan estimate of the greenhouse effect.

Up Versus Down

The second issue is that the atmosphere radiates in two directions, up and down. However, the ratio between upwelling and downwelling longwave (LW) radiation is not constant. Here is the variation in TOA upwelling longwave due solely to the changing upwelling/downwelling ratio.

Figure 3. Variations in top-of-atmosphere longwave (TOA LW) radiation due solely to the variations in the ratio of atmospheric energy going upwards and downwards.

The variations in these two other energy fluxes, variations that will appear in the amount of energy heading out to space, will cause spurious variations in the Ramanathan greenhouse measurement.

A Better Metric??

Seems like if we considered the TOA LW as a fraction of the total energy entering the atmosphere, rather than as a fraction of upwelling surface LW, it might be more instructive … hang on, never done this … well, dang, this is interesting.

Figure 4. As in Fig. 1a, except comparing the upwelling TOA longwave radiation going to space to total atmospheric energy flux, rather than comparing it just to upwelling surface longwave.

Hmmm … not sure what to say about that. It does seem that the fraction of atmospheric energy flux going out to space hasn’t changed much over the 22-year period of record. And it certainly has not increased by the amount we would expect from the increase in CO2 forcing …

All ideas welcome.

My best wishes to all,


The Usual: Please quote the exact words you are discussing. It avoids a host of misunderstandings.

Climate Change Weekly #479: Hot Summer Due to Many Factors—Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Not One of Them

From Heartland Daily News

By H. Sterling Burnett


  • Hot Summer Due to Many Factors—Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Not One of Them
  • Podcast of the Week: Climate Uncertainty and Risk: Rethinking Our Response: (Guest: Judith Curry, Ph.D.)
  • Large Increase in Atmospheric Water Vapor Likely Contributing to Current Heat Waves
  • Solar Panels Production Emits More Carbon Dioxide Than the IPCC Admits
  • Video of the Week: Climate Lockdowns: The British Change Their Stance
  • BONUS Video of the Week: The Era of Global Boiling Has Begun!? That Sounds Serious
  • Climate Comedy
  • Recommended Sites

    Miss Anything at Heartland’s Climate Conference? No Problem.

    Hot Summer Due to Many Factors—Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Not One of Them

    Let’s state the obvious and get it out of the way. It’s hot out there. Yeah, it’s summer and summer is typically hot, but it has as a matter of fact been “hotter than [usual in] July” (hat tip to Stevie Wonder) across much of the globe.

    Hundreds, if not thousands, of daily temperature records in cities and towns around the world have been set during the present heatwaves, which, in some locations, have persisted for an extended period. The heatwaves are real. I say heatwaves because it is not a single global event but a series of regional ones.

    Why now? For many progressive, bloviating politicians and alarmed reporters in mainstream media the answer is simple: climate change. In the immortal and insightful words of H. L. Mencken, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

    Climate change is a complex, long-term phenomenon, driven by a combination of numerous factors at different locations during different time periods. We can debate the causes of the modest warming of the past 150 to 170 years until we are blue in the face: the extent to which human greenhouse gas emissions contribute to it; the extent to which present measured temperatures are an artifact, at least in part, of the urban heat island effect—as was recently revealed in Houston and Phoenix; deforestation; solar activity; large ocean circulation patterns; and so forth. But the truth is, a recently warming world serves as a backdrop or baseline for the recent heatwaves; it is not their cause. The question is, what accounts for the large temperature spikes this summer—which are widespread, but not universal?

    It turns out a confluence of overlapping weather and meteorological events, some having global or hemispheric effects, some more localized, occurring simultaneously, account for the ongoing heatwaves (a series of similar but disconnected heatwaves, which the media has misleadingly treated as a single related event) this summer.

    One event that is contributing to a global rise in temperatures this year, and likely will for the next few years, is the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcanic eruption, described in more detail below. Water vapor makes up the vast majority of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, 98 percent or more, and the subsea Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai eruption added an additional 10 percent to 13 percent to atmospheric water vapor. Scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency agree this huge addition to the dominant atmospheric greenhouse gas is contributing significantly to this years’ temperatures.

    In addition, El Niño is back, and it’s a strong one. Before the U.S. summer heatwave struck and the ever climate-obsessed mainstream media focused on climate change as the reason behind it to the exclusion of almost every other factor, the media was warning that with the shift from  La Niña to El Niño hotter temperatures would result. Commenting on the role El Niño is playing in the present warming, Michael Wysession, Ph.D., of Washington University in St. Louis, writes at The Conversation:

    El Niño is a climate phenomenon that occurs every few years when surface water in the tropical Pacific reverses direction and heats up. That warms the atmosphere above, which influences temperatures and weather patterns around the globe.

    Essentially, the atmosphere borrows heat out of the Pacific, and global temperatures increase slightly. This happened in 2016, the time of the last strong El Niño. Global temperatures increased by about 0.25 F (0.14 C) on average, making 2016 the warmest year on record. A weak El Niño also occurred in 2019-2020, contributing to 2020 becoming the world’s second-warmest year.

    Heartland and other groups held a press briefing in early July, when the El Niño was officially declared, warning that as summer heated up, the mainstream media would largely begin to ignore  El Niño’s role in present temperatures, focusing instead on climate change. Our concerns proved prescient. As heatwaves began setting local records, discussions of El Niño’s role disappeared, and climate change claimed the headlines. The media was right in the spring, they are wrong now. El Niño, a cyclical event, is contributing to this year’s hot summer. By contrast, there is no evidence climate change is more than a baseline against which the current spike in temperatures is occurring.

    One little-discussed factor affecting this summer’s temperatures is the increasingly active sun. After a period of relative quiescence with little solar activity, the sun has become active again. An active sun has a direct, if modest, effect on the Earth’s temperatures. Some scientists also claim it has larger indirect effects because of its impact on cosmic rays, but that’s a discussion for another time. The point is, Sol’s recent increase in activity is contributing to this summer’s heatwaves.

    Regionally, a variety of entirely natural weather patterns have also contributed to warming, and even below normal temperatures in some areas.

    Across parts of the western and southeastern United States, and in southern and central Europe, heat domes or “blocking patterns” formed and persisted. As CNN described the situation, “[an]  enormous, relentless stubborn ridge of high pressure has trapped air inside in a ‘heat dome’ resulting in extreme temperatures as the dome parks itself over areas.”

    The blocking patterns in Europe trapped a heat dome there as it did in the western U.S. In addition, in early July the jet stream shifted. These two meteorological events combined to deliver colder-than-average, even fall-like temperatures in northern Europe and across the United Kingdom, in July and into August, while locking-in, for an extended period of time, extreme summer temperatures in a large swath of southern European nations abutting or near the Mediterranean Sea.

    Yet one more factor contributing to hotter than average temperatures over much of the globe this summer are changes in the ocean circulation patterns in the North Atlantic. In a complex story explained by Judith Curry, Ph.D., and Jim Johnstone, it seems that sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic are unusually high this summer, due largely to a period of rapid warming that began around March-April. That period of warming was brought about by significant changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation and weak surface winds, limiting ocean currents and surface mixing. The resulting increase in Atlantic Ocean temperatures has been hyped in the media, but, of course, wrongly linked to long-term climate change rather than weather anomalies of the type that naturally occur every so often.

    In short, there is a complex explanation for the complex weather patterns that have prevailed this summer. Multiple geologic, solar, meteorological, and atmospheric events have occurred simultaneously, resulting in unusually high summer temperatures obtaining over much of the world. Fossil fuel use does not cause volcanic eruptions, oceanic and wind current shifts, or changes in solar activity, thus climate change cannot fairly be blamed for the present pattern of heatwaves, which long-term data show have not increased.

    SourceNPRThe ConversationCNNClimate Etc.The Daily MailClimate Realism

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    Podcast of the Week

    In her book, Climate Uncertainty and RiskDr. Judith Curry describes how the climate science community has been captured by certain points of view concerning society and the desire for consensus, undermining its pursuit of objective facts. Climate change claims are fraught with uncertainty, only to be shrouded in secrecy for those who seek real-world data. The result is a society that bases it’s policy decisions of improper, and often incorrect, scientific assertions, rather than advancing human wellbeing.

    Subscribe to the Environment & Climate News podcast on Apple PodcastsiHeartSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts. And be sure to leave a positive review!

    Large Increase in Atmospheric Water Vapor Likely Contributing to Current Heat Wave

    Evidence suggests one factor contributing to the above average heat many parts of the globe are experiencing this summer is the undersea eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano.

    Both NASA and the European Space Agency are reporting that the eruption ejected enough water into the atmosphere to temporarily raise the Earth’s temperature.

    Peer reviewed studies have estimated that Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai’s eruption added the equivalent of 10 percent to 13 percent of the pre-existing water vapor into the upper atmosphere, between 8 and 33 miles above the Earth’s surface where it will remain for years to come.

    Although little acknowledged or discussed, water vapor rather than carbon dioxide makes up as much as 98 percent or more of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by volume. As such, adding an additional 10 to 13 percent to the atmospheric load of water vapor in the short three months studies estimate it took to disperse and mix across the globe is bound to have a significant effect on measured temperatures, which recent studies have acknowledged.

    Concerning the impact of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai’s eruption researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote:

    Volcanic eruptions rarely inject much water into the stratosphere. In the 18 years that NASA has been taking measurements, only two other eruptions—the 2008 Kasatochi event in Alaska and the 2015 Calbuco eruption in Chile—sent appreciable amounts of water vapor to such high altitudes. But those were mere blips compared to the Tonga event, and the water vapor from both previous eruptions dissipated quickly. The excess water vapor injected by the Tonga volcano, on the other hand, could remain in the stratosphere for several years.

    This extra water vapor could influence atmospheric chemistry, boosting certain chemical reactions that could temporarily worsen depletion of the ozone layer. It could also influence surface temperatures. Massive volcanic eruptions like Krakatoa and Mount Pinatubo typically cool Earth’s surface by ejecting gases, dust, and ash that reflect sunlight back into space. In contrast, the Tonga volcano didn’t inject large amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere, and the huge amounts of water vapor from the eruption may have a small, temporary warming effect, since water vapor traps heat.

    When was the last time, amidst the thousands of stories blaming climate change for the current heatwave, you saw a headline in the mainstream media, “Volcanic Eruption Causes Summer Heatwave”? I’ve seen not one.

    Sources:Climate RealismAmerican Thinker

    Heartland’s Must-read Climate Sites

    Solar Panel Production Emits More Carbon Dioxide Than the IPCC Admits

    Recently, researchers have tried to calculate the cradle-to-grave carbon dioxide emissions from the global solar energy push. So far, such analyses have found the solar industry has a much higher carbon footprint than previously claimed. As a result, government policies incentivizing and mandating the use of solar energy undercount carbon dioxide emissions from solar panel production by 300 percent or more. A report by the group Environmental Progress sums up the problem of solar energy’s green bona fides, writing:

    Information unearthed by Environmental Progress points to a gaping oversight in how the figures influencing government net zero policy and investments in solar worldwide are compiled and collated …

    Key to this blind spot is that the source material for most of the assessments is provided by a small number of data compilers, many if not all of them working in collaboration with the International Energy Agency (IEA). The data is voluntarily submitted by the industry in response to academic surveys.

    … This data is relied on by institutions worldwide, including the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and IEA itself, to calculate their carbon footprint projections, including the sixth assessment report published as recently as March 2023.

    Based on such data, the IPCC claims solar PV is 48 gCO2/kWh. But, … a new investigation started by Italian researcher, Enrico Mariutti, suggests that the number is closer to between 170 and 250 gCO2/kWh, depending on the energy mix used to power PV production. If this estimate is accurate, solar would not compare favorably with natural gas, …

    Due to low energy costs when compared to Europe, the United States, and elsewhere (due to the vast majority of the electricity being generated by coal), heavy government support, and cheap labor, most of the world’s solar silicon wafer production moved from Europe, the United States, and Japan in less than a decade as industrialized economies began to increasingly mandate solar energy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. China proved more than happy to feed their solar addiction.

    The problem is that China’s emission reporting is opaque. As such, instead of using real world data on emissions as they are actually produced in China, the data used by the IEA and the IPCC to calculate the carbon dioxide emissions from solar panel production is based on modeled emissions from Europe and the United States from when they dominated solar panel production—yet they get their energy from sources that emit much less CO2 per unit of energy than does China. The discrepancy is huge. And this calculation doesn’t even include the emissions from mining, installing, operating or disposing of solar panels.

    The IEA projects that China will continue to dominate solar panel and solar panel component production well into the future. How dominant is China now, one might ask? Environmental Progress provides an answer:

    [I]n 2021 China produced more than 80 percent of global solar-grade polysilicon, a critical input into solar arrays. It doesn’t stop there; China manufactures 97 percent of the global supply of solar wafers, another essential component.

    … Until the mid-2000s the market was dominated by Japanese, US and German manufacturers, many of whom were in the midst of automating their production lines, when Chinese manufacturers swooped in to take their market share. The disruption happened in under a decade, with China’s global share of PV production surging from 14 percent in 2006 to 60 percent by 2013.

    The coal-fueled electricity used in a single one of China’s polysilicon wafer production regions alone is more than double the electricity from all sources used for such production in the Germany, Japan, and the United States combined.

    Environmental Progress used Mariutti’s math to calculate how badly the EU underestimated the emissions from the solar installations brought online in Europe in 2022 alone. The undercount was “5.4 to 7.6 million metric tons, equivalent to adding 3.4 to 4.8 million cars to the road.”

    According to Cowboy State Daily, Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, was not surprised by Mariutti’s and Environmental Progress’ findings.

    “The dirty little secret with so-called renewable energy—I call it unreliable energy—wind and solar, is that it takes immense amounts of energy to create them,” said Deti. “The hypocrisy of it all is that they [China and other countries] don’t have the environmental standards, the pollution standards and the emission standards of the U.S.

    “That’s the dirty little secret with so-called clean energy,” Deti told Cowboy State Daily.

    Sources: Environmental ProgressCowboy State Daily

    Video of the Week

    In this episode of Climate Change Roundtable, we will head across the pond to the UK to look at the results of a joint poll conducted by YouGov, CAR26, and The Heartland Institute. According to the most recent results, there has been a 20% decrease in the number of Brits who strongly supported the idea of climate lockdowns back in October 2021.

    Joining us is special guest Lois Perry of CAR26 to discuss what she observes going on with the climate policies in Britain. We also have our usual fun poking holes in the craziest climate news of the week!

    Watch every episode of The Heartland Institute’s Climate Change Roundtable show LIVE every Friday at 1 p.m. ET.

    BONUS Video of the Week

    Can the climate catastrophists get any crazier? Old and cold: The hottest July in the last 120,000 years. New and hot: The era of global warming has ended, and the era of global boiling has begun.”

    Heartland Institute President James Taylor was a guest of the great Tony Katz debunking these ridiculous claims that are causing real mental damage to those who are conditioned to trust their “superiors” in media and in government.

    United Nations Secretary General António Guterres recently stated this: “Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it’s only the beginning. The era of global warming has ended, and the era of global boiling has begun.”

    Climate Comedy

    via Cartoons by Josh

    Recommended Sites

    Climate at a GlanceClimate Realism
    Heartland’s Climate PageHeartland’s Climate Conferences 
    Environment & Climate NewsWatts Up With That
    Liberty & EcologyHeartland’s Energy Conferences
    Junk Science (Steve Milloy)Climate Depot (Marc Morano)
    CFACTCO2 Coalition
    Climate Change DispatchNet Zero Watch (UK)
    GlobalWarming.org (Cooler Heads)Climate Audit
    Dr. Roy SpencerNo Tricks Zone
    Climate Etc. (Judith Curry)JoNova
    Master ResourceCornwall Alliance (Cal Beisner)
    International Climate Science CoalitionScience and Environmental Policy Project 
    CAR26.orgGelbspan Files
    1000Frolley (YouTube)Climate Policy at Heritage
    Power for USAGlobal Warming at Cato
    Science and Public Policy InstituteClimate Change Reconsidered NIPCC)
    Climate in Review (C. Jeffery Small)Real Science (Tony Heller)
    WiseEnergyC3 Headlines
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    The Climate BetSteve Milloy on Twitter

    Record-Breaking Detection of Solar Photons

    An image of the HAWC detector consisting of 300 large (188,000 liter/50k gallon) water tanks, each with 4 photodetectors
     (Jordan A. Goodman)

    From  Phys.org

    Physics 16, s107

    Measurements of the highest-energy radiation from the Sun ever seen highlight the need for better solar models.

    Observations over the past decade or so have shown that the Sun emits many more gamma rays at GeV energies than is expected from modeling. Now a collaboration operating the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Observatory in Mexico show that this gamma-ray excess extends up to TeV energies [1]. This finding has implications for our understanding of both stellar atmospheres and astroparticle physics.

    Solar gamma rays are produced when high-energy particles called cosmic rays head toward the Sun’s surface but are turned around by the solar magnetic field. As these particles then travel away from the Sun’s surface, they interact with gas in the solar atmosphere to create gamma rays. Models predict the number of emitted photons of a given energy by assuming certain properties of the cosmic rays, the Sun’s magnetic field, and the solar atmosphere.

    The HAWC Collaboration presents the first detection of TeV gamma rays from the Sun, a finding based on more than six years of data. The flux is much higher than predicted, indicating that the interactions between the cosmic rays and the solar atmosphere are remarkably efficient at producing gamma rays. Moreover, the TeV-gamma-ray flux varies in inverse proportion to the level of solar activity, suggesting that the Sun’s magnetic field affects the flux—a result that will be useful for modeling.

    The researchers say that their work calls for a revised theoretical framework that can explain the excess of solar gamma rays at both GeV and TeV energies.

    –Ryan Wilkinson

    Ryan Wilkinson is a Corresponding Editor for Physics Magazine based in Durham, UK.


    1. A. Albert et al. (HAWC Collaboration), “Discovery of gamma rays from the quiescent Sun with HAWC,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 131, 051201 (2023).

    Wisconsin town fights big solar (and climate corporatism)

    From CFACT

    By Robert Bryce 

    When I arrived at the Christiana Town Hall yesterday afternoon, Mark A. Cook, the town chairman, and two local landowners, John Barnes, and Roxann Engelstad, were ready and waiting. They had multiple maps and charts showing the footprint and details of Invenergy’s proposed 300-megawatt Koshkonong Solar Energy Center.

    Cook got right to the point. Christiana, he said, has been “based on agriculture since people settled here. This project will completely kill ag in this town for generations.” The solar project is targeting “our very best farmland. It’s not like they are taking the crap land. This is the cream of the crop.” He went on, saying that the company is targeting farmland because it’s relatively flat and therefore will be easy to cover with panels. In addition, Christiana is near a gas-fired power plant that is connected to the high-voltage transmission grid. That location will make it easy for the proposed solar project to get its electricity onto the grid.

    About 1,800 people live in Christiana, which is located 70 miles west of Milwaukee. It sits amid picturesque rolling hills and farms that mostly grow corn and soybeans. The landscape is marked with thickly wooded patches of trees and shrubs that have grown back in the areas that aren’t under the plow. The soil is a rich, dark brown. Under cloudy skies, the tilled land looks almost black.

    Cook, who is also the president of the Cambridge Area Fire and EMS Commission, told me Christiana operates on a budget of about $3.8 million. It has already spent about $200,000 in legal fees fighting the Invenergy project. It has filed one lawsuit to stop the $650 million project and will soon file another suit against the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. The town is claiming the agency violated the Wisconsin Constitution and the commission’s own rules when it granted a permit for the project last year. More about the legal details in a moment.

    The fight in Christiana provides yet another snapshot of the land-use conflicts over renewables that are raging all across the country. People like Cook, Barnes, Engelstad, and the other people in Christiana, are not NIMBYs, the slur that project developers and many climate activists like to use when describing people who are fighting big renewable projects.

    Instead, their efforts to protect Christiana and its farmland from the energy sprawl that comes with large-scale renewable projects are directly in line with the views of an overwhelming majority of Americans. In March, a new media outlet called Heatmap (“focused on the biggest story in the world: the great climate and energy transition”) published the results of a poll of 1,000 adult Americans.

    The poll, which included people from all 50 states, found that “79% of Americans said that new renewable energy should be rolled out ‘slowly’ rather than ‘quickly’ and that the conservation of land and wild animals should be prioritized above rapid greenhouse-gas reductions.”

    A poll published in March found that nearly 80% of U.S. adults believe conservation is more important than a speedy renewable energy rollout. Source: Heatmap Climate Poll.

    Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer, continued, explaining that “only 21% of Americans agreed with the statement that ‘we should roll out renewable energy quickly to lower emissions as fast as possible, even if it means harming natural land or wild animals.’” Meyer added a line that you won’t read in the New York Times or NPR: “In other words, you don’t necessarily need recourse to astroturfing schemes or secret fossil-fuel connections to explain why so many Americans oppose new renewable projects.”

    “79% of Americans said that new renewable energy should be rolled out ‘slowly’ rather than ‘quickly’ and that the conservation of land and wild animals should be prioritized above rapid greenhouse-gas reductions…In other words, you don’t necessarily need recourse to astroturfing schemes or secret fossil-fuel connections to explain why so many Americans oppose new renewable projects”

    Indeed, as can be seen in the Renewable Rejection Database, huge numbers of rural Americans from Maine to Hawaii are opposing wind and solar projects. Since 2015, local communities and jurisdictions have rejected or restricted wind or solar projects nearly 500 times. Rural Americans are fighting these projects because they are concerned about their property values, and rightly so. A 2020 study in Rhode Island found that prices of homes located close to solar projects went down by as much as 7%. A study released last month by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that solar projects can reduce the value of nearby properties by as much as 5%.

    The story I heard yesterday in Christiana echoes what I’ve heard from people in dozens of other communities over the last decade. The scenarios are almost always the same: a big, out-of-state renewable energy company comes into a rural community, quietly obtains leases from a handful of large (often absentee) landowners, and then lets the local government know that it plans to cover big swaths of land with wind turbines or solar panels. Once the news spreads, residents get organized to fight the projects. They are always outgunned. They never have enough money and thus, can’t match the financial muscle of the big corporations. Sometimes they are successful in keeping the projects at bay. Sometimes they are not.

    Christiana residents face a formidable foe in Invenergy. The company, which is controlled by billionaire Michael Polsky, (estimated net worth: $1.5 billion) is the world’s largest privately held renewable energy company. Invenergy has gained a reputation as one of the most aggressive and litigious companies in the renewables business. Last year, the company sued Worth County, Iowa as part of an effort to force the county to accept a wind project the county doesn’t want. The company also sued Fulton Township, Michigan last year, shortly after it denied a permit that would have allowed the company to 12 wind turbines in the township.

    Julie Kuntz, who describes herself as “a fifth-generation Iowa farm girl” told me last year on the Power Hungry Podcast, that Invenergy has been using “nefarious tactics” to try to convince rural landowners in Iowa to sign leases. (That interview is also available here.) Kuntz, a resident of Grafton, Iowa, said she had received emails from one of Invenergy’s lawyers that she felt were aimed at intimidating her. “That’s kind of the way that this company works…is by intimidation.”

    Now back to Koshkonong. Invenergy’s proposed project will cover about 6,400 acres or 10 square miles. As can be seen in the map above, if the project is built, it will cover about a third of the town of Christiana. In addition to the solar panels, which could cover some 7.2 square miles of farmland, the project plans also include a 165 MW (667 MWh) battery storage system that, if built, would be located a few hundred feet from a local elementary school.

    In May 2022, the Wisconsin PSC granted what’s known as a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Invenergy. That permit effectively prevents Christiana from enforcing any zoning rules that would stop the project. But here’s the rub: Invenergy got the permit from the PSC, but it plans to sell the Koshkonong solar project to two utilities: Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group and Madison Gas and Electric.

    Frank Jablonski, a Madison-based lawyer who is representing Engelstad and her husband, Edward Lovell, in their lawsuit against the PSC, told me by phone that what the PSC is doing on the Koshkonong project is allowing Invenergy and the two utilities that plan to buy it, to “circumvent state rules that would require more stringent analysis.” He added that if WEC Energy Group and Madison Gas and Electric had sought to build the project themselves, they would have had to go through a much more stringent regulatory and environmental review process.

    In short, what’s happening in Christiana is yet another example of climate corporatism. Earlier this month, I wrote about Jamie Dimon, the head of America’s biggest bank, J.P. Morgan, who recently suggested that governments should use the power of eminent domain more frequently so that more wind and solar projects could be built. Dimon failed to mention that his bank is one of the biggest players in the lucrative business of tax equity finance, a $20-billion-per-year industry that plays a pivotal role in the development of wind and solar projects. As I explained in that piece, climate corporatism is the use of government power to increase the profits of big corporations at the expense of consumersand in particular, at the expense of small (and mostly rural) landownersin the name of climate change.

    The use of government power to allow Invenergy and the two utilities to make more money is clearly what is happening in Christiana. Indeed, that’s one of the main claims in Engelstad’s case against the PSC. It says that by giving Invenergy the certificate of public convenience and necessity, the PSC is allowing the utilities to “evade detailed regulatory disclosures and analysis that would be required” under Wisconsin state law. It also claims that Invenergy’s plan to sell the  Koshkonong project to the two utilities allows it to gain a “competitive advantage over potential bona fide merchant developers, violating state policy favoring competition that the PSC is charged with implementing.”

    One of the many opponents of the Koshkonong project is Carissa Lyle, who lives in a century-old farmhouse in Christiana with her husband, Nathan, and three small children. If built, the Koshkonong project would surround their three-acre property on three sides. Last year, Lyle, who is also the town clerk, sent me an email. She wrote: “To anyone reading this who wants to dismiss our concerns and fears, I ask you to put yourself in our shoes…We don’t know what our family’s future will look like. As of right now, we face some difficult decisions. If this project is approved, we must decide if we want to risk staying at this location. If we decide it’s not worth the safety of our family and we need to move, will we be able to sell? And if we sell, how much of a loss will be taking?”

    On Wednesday afternoon, I met Lyle in person at the Christiana Town Hall. We talked while her three young children, Carter, Miles, and Brinley raced among the tables and chairs in the town hall’s meeting room. “This is about class,” she told me. “It’s big landowners and cities and big business trying to tell us what to do.”


    • Robert Bryce
    • Robert Bryce is the host of the Power Hungry Podcast, executive producer of the documentary, Juice: How Electricity Explains the World, and the author of six books, including most recently, A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations.
    • Follow him on Twitter and TikTok: @pwrhungry