Local Government Shocks UK Couple By Requesting Removal of ‘Harmful' Solar Panels
The Skinners were encouraged by their local council to install solar panels on the roof and side of their United Kingdom home, only to later be told by the same officials that their $33,300 energy system presented a threat to the community.
According to Business Green, James and Joy Skinner, both 81, were left feeling confused by the contradiction and betrayed by town officials. The side panels are visible, but face a brewery, seemingly without agitating anybody in a conservation area of Hounslow on the banks of the Thames River. The couple's pre-installation calls to three departments in Hounslow resulted in officials assuring them that enough time remained for them to qualify for the feed-in tariff before it was cut from 21 to 16 pence per kilowatt hour, which is roughly 35 cents to 27 cents in U.S. dollars. They told the family that filing their planning permission after the fact presented a risk, but not a large one.
Weeks later, the Skinners received a rejection letter, requesting that their panels be taken down.
"It seems to me so extraordinary and unfair that the council should treat this road in one way themselves, and then [treat it differently] when we're trying to do something that is frankly not of financial benefit to us—in so far as we're in our 80s and not expecting to reap the returns," Joy told the website. "So, we are trying to do this in the public good, for the future of our children and grandchildren."
In subsequent responses, the council stated that the panels hurt the conservation area's appearance. An appeal didn't work in the Skinners' favor, either.
"The solar panels, despite being installed only to the upper stories, appear as an incongruous feature, which detracts substantially from the character and appearance of the conservation area," an inspector's report reads. "It is noted that there is considerable support for the appellant. However, that does not negate the harm to the conservation area which ... should be conserved so that it can be enjoyed for its contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations."
Though Hounslow Council says the family knew what it was getting into, James recalls an energy official telling him what an effectively advertisement the panels would be. James feels like there is more being done to prevent his family from going solar than to figure out climate change, which causes the Thames to rise in front of his home.
"It is extraordinary that the success of the fossil fuel lobby is so great that there is now a change taking place," he said. "Renewable energy investment is now falling and I think [our case] is directly involved with exactly that issue."
Leonie Greene of the Solar Trade Association told Business Green that the Skinners' case shows the need for the solar industry and local governments to get on the same page. She also believes the town council could have been less encouraging in their dealings with the family.
"There's a lot of confusion around the rules in conservation areas and councils as well as homeowners are often confused about what they can and can't do," she said. "If people are in doubt, they need to talk to the local council, but in this instance James did, which suggests the industry and government need to do more to make the planning rules clear."
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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