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When Coal First Arrived, Americans Said ‘No Thanks’

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Steven Preister’s house in Washington, D.C. is a piece of American history, a gorgeous 110-year-old colonial with wooden columns and a front porch, perfect for relaxing in the summer. But Preister, who has owned it for almost four decades, is deeply concerned about the environment, so in 2014 he added something very modern: solar panels. First, he mounted panels on the back of the house, and they worked nicely. Then he decided to add more on the front, facing the street and applied to the city for a permit.

Permission denied. Washington’s Historic Preservation Review Board ruled that front-facing panels would ruin the house’s historic appearance: “I applaud your greenness,” Chris Landis, an architect, and board member, told Preister at a meeting in October 2019, “but I just have this vision of a row of houses with solar panels on the front of them and it just—it upsets me.” Some of Preister’s neighbors were equally dismayed and vowed to stop him. “There were two women on my front porch snapping pictures of my house and declaring, ‘You’ll never get solar panels on this house!’” Preister says.

Renewable energy is at a curious crossroads. It’s needed to avert further climate damage, and solar and wind power are now remarkably cheap. But even clean-energy proponents often dislike the aesthetics of the new technology. They’re happy for solar arrays and windmills to exist somewhere—just not within sight. Many homeowners’ associations refuse to let residents install panels.

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https://th-thumbnailer.cdn-si-edu.com/ijvA1BKv4sRefqZAG990AMM_O3s=/1000x750/filters:no_upscale():focal(1124x846:1125x847)/https://tf-cmsv2-smithsonianmag-media.s3.amazonaws.com/filer_public/99/50/9950548a-eff6-4f99-bfb2-77fc401eed62/julaug2022_e04_prologue.jpgIllustration by Kotryna Zukauskaite

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/americans-hated-coal-180980342/?utm_source=pocket_discover

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