A moratorium, a short, temporary, halt to renewable energy projects, is often passed by cities and towns to "slow things down and take a forward look" at development, especially when multiple applications inundate a community in a short time frame. Often moratoriums are put into place when there are regulations or comprehensive plans written, or the existing regulations are old and outdated.
Moratoriums can also be used as a weapon by opponents to stall and stop a project. Developers do not, despite what many believe, have endless streams of money to sit on land after delays take place. Sticking to a strict timeline is critical in land use development, and renewables are no exception.
Just recently, Le Sueur County, Minnesota, banned solar projects for a year. In the same state, Wilkin County also banned solar projects. And in Kansas, Neosho County is pushing for a wind moratorium, and Sedgewick County has banned wind farms outright. In New York, the small community of Portland has banned wind farms for six months while Riverhead has proposed a moratorium on solar projects. In Massachusetts, voters went to the polls at a town meeting in Charlton to ban solar farms. And even overseas, in Shetland, Scotland, residents are pushing for a wind farm moratorium.
Renewable companies need to keep their ear to the ground in regards to local politics and the mood of residents in regards to their project or future projects in a community. Moratoriums often arise when projects are a whisper in a community, or a community has been inundated with multiple applications for solar or wind farms. They often end with the re-writing of local zoning rules that are rarely supportive of the renewable companies goals and plans in the community. They often involve restrictive buffering of projects that are most likely to be in the view shed of residents.
Fighting a moratorium is similar to two campaigns in one, or often two in a row for your project. First you have to defeat the moratorium, demonstrating why it would harm the viability (financially) of the project, and slow the progress of renewable energy projects. If you are successful at that, you then have to apply for your project, and gain approval. Just what some companies do not want, two campaigns in a row for the same project.
When the first whispers of a moratorium are heard, renewable energy developers should immediately meet with the elected or planning officials to explain they will work with the community in shaping a project that responds to many of the concerns of those that want a moratorium - without a six- or twelve-month delay.
Building public opposition to a moratorium and for your project is also necessary. When local residents understand that a moratorium is too restrictive, and too costly for the viability of the project, local officials will listen. Holding workshops, charrettes and forums, along with a public information campaign of direct mail, a project website and social media platforms will help educate residents, identify supporters, and harness them into action for the project, and against a restrictive moratorium.
Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995. His firm has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, energy and residential projects. Additionally, his firm has worked on projects in twenty-six states and three countries.