Nebraskans Install First Solar Panels Inside the Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Silver Creek, NE -- On July 29, the “Solar XL” project placed its first solar panels along the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, on the farm of Nebraska landowners Jim and Chris Carlson near Silver Creek.

"I am vehemently opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline mainly because of the properties of the contents of the tar sands oil it will carry—this is not your mother’s crude oil, it is the Devil’s, and it can kill," said Jim Carlson. "We must be focused on clean, renewable energy and America can get along just fine without this foul concoction they call bitumen that TransCanada wants to pipe across our precious soil and water."

The Carlsons, who rejected a $307,000 offer from the pipeline company TransCanada to build Keystone XL through their backyard, partnered with Bold Nebraska,, Indigenous Environmental Network, CREDO and Oil Change International to put renewable energy directly in the pipeline’s path.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"625049","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 600px; height: 400px;","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Jim Carlson, Nebraska landowner who placed solar in path of Keystone XL on his family’s farm. Polk County on the route. Photo Credit: Mary Anne Andrei / Bold Nebraska

Keystone XL would be a disaster for our climate and communities, and what's more TransCanada's own CEO questions whether there's even demand for it in the first place," said David Turnbull, Campaigns Director, Oil Change International. "There's simply no reason to build this dangerous pipeline and put us all at risk. Meanwhile, this new solar installation is a shining example of creative and determined resistance to Big Oil bullying. Landowners up and down the Keystone XL route have shown impressive determination to stop this pipeline for years, and with Solar XL, they’re building the future we all need at the same time."

Solar XL underscores the need to center solutions to climate change while rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and resisting the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

"The very thought of a big corporation using eminent domain for their private gain makes Nebraskans angry and inspires our creativity and grit to stop this risky pipeline," said Jane Kleeb of Bold Alliance. "We used 100% made-in-the-USA materials, and a small family-run company to install these solar panels. The Solar XL project is a reminder of the people power that will stop this pipeline."

The Solar XL project is being supported through an ongoing crowdfunding campaign launched last month. The solar panels, which will be installed in at least two other locations along the pipeline route, will serve not only as a form of clean energy, but as a symbol of the urgent need for a just transition away from fossil fuels toward a 100% renewable energy economy. The panels will help power the homes of Nebraskans resisting Keystone XL, and are being installed by the family-owned rural solar business, North Star Solar Bears, run by Jim Knopik.

"Our family-run company is based in Nebraska—and by installing solar projects, like the ones to stop the Keystone XL pipeline—my kids are able to stay on the farm," said Knopik. "It’s time for our country to start the transition to clean energy now."

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"625051","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 600px; height: 400px;","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Chris Carlson holds a protest sign featuring her husband Jim Carlson at the Build Our Energy Barn, west of Benedict, Nebraska, during the Stop the Keystone XL Candlelight Vigil held on the evening of February 3rd. Hundreds of vigils to protest Keystone XL were held across the country. Photo: Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska

Josh Nelson, Deputy Political Director at CREDO said:

The solar panels being installed on the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline should serve as a powerful reminder of the fierce opposition this pipeline has faced for the past seven years. They also show that our march toward clean energy will move forward despite the best efforts of Donald Trump and his Big Oil cronies to keep us wedded to the dirty energy sources of the past. CREDO is proud to stand with and support the landowners and indigenous people on the pipeline route who are leading the opposition to Keystone XL.

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil a day from Canada through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, and then on to the export market. The pipeline would pass through farms, ranches, and Indigenous land, posing a threat to the Ogallala Aquifer and other water sources that would be contaminated by spills and leaks.

Landowners continue to fight eminent domain for private gain knowing this would be the first time the Public Service Commission (PSC) grants those powers to a foreign corporation. Lastly, all along the route, local economies are connected to agriculture, and climate change is a serious issue. Keystone XL would significantly add to climate risks for farmers, ranchers and Tribal Nations.

Joye Braun, Indigenous Environmental Network, said:

While we are dedicated to Keep It In The Ground efforts to stop new fossil fuel development, we are also deeply committed to the Just Transition. Solar and renewable energy can provide a sustainable transition away from fossil fuels and provide job growth in areas traditionally left behind, like rural America and our Indigenous communities. By placing solar projects in the route of Keystone XL, we are demonstrating how vital it is to not just stop dangerous and unnecessary projects like KXL but to also show that there are alternatives to the fossil fuel industry that do not put communities at risk and sacrifice Indigenous Peoples and land. We are excited to be a part of this resistance that also highlights the solutions that are needed.

The first installation took place just over a week before the Nebraska Public Service Commission holds hearings in Lincoln on whether to grant a construction permit for Keystone XL through the state. One day before the hearings on August 6th, people from around Nebraska and surrounding states will converge for a march through the streets of Lincoln urging the Commissioners to reject the permit. 

If permits are granted for Keystone XL construction in Nebraska, TransCanada will have to tear down homegrown clean energy in order to build, galvanizing people across the country to fight back.

"Solar XL is about showing what's possible at a massive scale—a renewable energy economy that doesn't sacrifice our communities or our climate, said Sara Shor, Keep it in the Ground Campaign Manager at

"Putting solar panels in the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline will help power the homes of Nebraskans refusing to give in to the fossil fuel industry's greed," she said. "This August, farmers, Indigenous peoples, and many more communities living along the proposed Keystone XL route will be in Nebraska to urge the commissioners to deny a permit for the project. This is a fight for our future. We must resist Keystone XL and all new fossil fuel infrastructure while building our way towards a renewable energy economy that works for all."

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"625050","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 600px; height: 242px;","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

"Build Our Energy Barn" was built in 2013 on the Hammond family’s land inside KXL route near York, Nebraska—one of the many signs of resistance to Keystone XL. Photo Credit: Mary Anne Andrei / Bold Nebraska

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.