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To fight Keystone XL pipeline, activists placing solar panels in its path

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Panels not pipes making stand for renewable energy on Nebraska farms

The #NoKXL Build Our Energy Barn, located near York, Nebraska, that was already built in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline. Activists have started a campaign to build more before a land-use hearing next month in Nebraska.
Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, a long-debated infrastructure project that would transport hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day through the center of the U.S., have a new strategy to block to construction. The Solar XL campaign, which launched on Saturday seeks to raise funds to place solar installations on the property of homeowners who live in the path of the proposed pipeline, but haven’t sold to the oil company.

This “panels not pipes” crowdfunding campaign aims to draw attention to the value of renewable power versus petroleum, and also serve as a last-ditch attempt to delay to pipeline’s completion.

“The need for the Keystone XL pipeline product is non-existent in the United States,” said Nebraska landowner Bob Allpress, who wants to add one of the installations to his property. “The monetary benefit to the peoples of Nebraska will be gone in 7 years, while the risks to our state are for the life of this pipeline. The installation of wind and solar production in Nebraska will provide many good Nebraska jobs and provide years of cheap electricity for everyone in our great state.”

Bob Allpress, a Nebraska farmer who wants to place solar panels on his property, which lies on the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Mark Hefflinger/Bold Nebraska

The first proposed installation would be on the farm of Jim and Chris Carlson, who refused to sell their property in Polk County despite a $307,000 offer from TransCanada. A coalition of groups, including 350.org, Bold Nebraska, Indigenous Environmental Network, CREDO, and Oil Change International, are working to find other locations to install solar panels in the path of the pipeline, which will be plugged into the Nebraska power grid. The installations will be completed by North Star Solar Bears, a family-owned rural solar installation business.

Though these installations are definitely meant as symbolic protest, they’re much more than mere annoyances. In early August, the Nebraska Public Service Commission will review the pipeline and its proposed route through the state, one of the last potential legal hurdles TransCanada needs to overcome before starting construction. Supporters plan to erect the installations in time for the hearings and make a point about energy choices and eminent domain. They’ll also stage a protest on August 6 in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, before the commission meets.