solar siting and energy justice
This research began through a collaboration with Eva Jacroux, then an undergraduate student at the University of Washington. Eva became interest in a conflict unfolding not far from her hometown in Eastern Washington, when white settlers, farmers, and others temporarily joined by members of the Yakama Nation to protest the spread of "solar farms." Eva conducted the primary qualitative research for this project, going to public hearings and testimonies on the proposed solar moratorium for Klickitat County, Washington, interviewing members of C.E.A.S.E., and gathering other primary documents around the struggle over solar siting. I helped Eva with content analysis of other primary documents while connecting her observations with scholarship on rural development, settler colonialism, and energy reparations.
Eva's interest sparked questions for me, thinking about similar energy transitions and questions of development for the rural South for future research projects. I am grateful to work with such a fantastic human and researcher. You can find more about Eva's work and writing here.
Struggles Over Solar: Liminal Coalitions Against Solar Energy in Klickitat County, Washington, U.S.
Eva Jacroux and Carrie Freshour
Washington state is rapidly increasing renewable energy infrastructure – such as utility-scale solar plants - to meet the state’s zero emission goals by 2045. However, struggles over land use have raised concerns about the uneven impacts of utility solar on rural, energy producing communities. In Klickitat County, residents of Goldendale, WA mobilized to create CEASE – Citizens Educated Against Solar Energy – working strategically with members of the Yakama Nation, to challenge the current siting process. In this paper we investigate contestations around solar energy through content analysis of public meetings, hearings, procedural documents, and local archives as well as interviews with organizers and planning officials. Opposition to solar infrastructure illuminates the flaws in land siting policies and procedures related to green energy transformations. Through a lack of procedural justice, we observe the ways in which settler resentment builds in liminal opposition to private-public forms of energy-related capital accumulation. In this paper, we ask the following research questions: what motivates organized opposition to the solar siting process? And what are the opportunities and constraints to building solidarity across differently situated rural residents? In our case study, we found CEASE, a rural populist leaning grassroots organization, to briefly join efforts with the Yakama Nation, viewing the state in misalignment with rural identities and livelihoods. Yet, settler logics, expressed through a focus on property and labor, complicate shared visions for energy justice.