Renewable Energy Projects Face Opposition in 49 States, Local Restrictions in 31 States

By Leah Adelman and Jacob Elkin

Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law has published an update to its Report on Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States, which documents local restrictions on and opposition to the siting of renewable energy projects. The updated report highlights 121 local policies restricting new wind and solar across 31 states, along with 204 renewable projects that have been contested across 49 states, which represent 17.5% and 23.6% increases over the report’s September 2021 update. Mississippi was the only state without identified local opposition or restrictions.

Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

Achieving a reduction of net US emissions of at least 50%–52% below 2005 levels by 2030, as President Biden has set out to do, requires unprecedented development of wind, solar, and other renewable energy facilities. Although host community members are often enthusiastic about renewable energy facilities’ economic and environmental benefits, local opposition can also arise. Understanding when and why communities oppose renewable development will be a key to expedited renewable deployment in the US.

The report was updated by Sabin Center research assistants Leah Adelman and Shane Finn and originally authored by former Sabin Center interns Kate Marsh, Neely McKee, and Maris Welch. The updates were completed under the supervision of Sabin Center Climate Law Fellow Jacob Elkin and the original under the supervision of former Sabin Center Climate Law Fellow Hillary Aidun.

The report was prepared as part of the work of the Renewable Energy Legal Defense Initiative (RELDI), a joint project of the Sabin Center and the law firm of Arnold & Porter. RELDI provides pro bono legal representation to community groups and local residents who support renewable energy developments in their communities that are facing opposition.

Read the report here. More information about RELDI can be found here. For more information about the Sabin Center’s publications, please visit our searchable library here.

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Jacob Elkin is a Renewable Energy Legal Defense Initiative Fellow at the Sabin Center.