Guest column from Judith Mass: We need to educate ourselves well on solar implantation

As for a recent column, “Understanding the Complexities of Solar Implantation” by Sarah Matthews, I totally agree – with the last paragra...



As for a recent column, “Understanding the Complexities of Solar Implantation” by Sarah Matthews, I totally agree – with the last paragraph. The author identifies himself as someone who assists solar development projects, and each of the seven points raised reflects the industry’s old, tired or distorted claims.

First, that private landowners are free to engage in even worse forms of development – yes, with limits, and certainly not where such development threatens health, safety and other property by the ‘erosion and runoff, or when it conflicts with its surroundings. That’s why we have zoning, so that communities can monitor land use. (Rule of thumb: if you don’t set up a box store on a site, why imagine that a giant solar panel is allowed.)

Second, it is claimed that a network is impermanent, as opposed to other developments. For both forms of development, all trees, roots, brush and soil are removed. It is absurd to claim that a box store or residences do more lasting damage than a network. Each can be downgraded, and in both cases, it would take 150 years to see if the forest can regain its former functioning.

Third, while leasing forest land for development has proven to be lucrative (albeit destructive to our common environment), readers may not be aware that conservation funding is also substantial. A landowner currently receives $ 15 million in public and private funds for conservation. This allows for continued private land ownership and forestry, while protecting land from development. Many municipal by-laws now limit the cutting of trees to ten acres – a large field, but not the hundreds of thousands desired by the mega development.

Fourth, the solar developers bear all the costs, including the interconnection. This is considered a form of forest protection by the writer. But the question is, is a large expanse of unmanaged forest generally closer to these sites than a railroad or highway, or a landfill? And the follow-up question: when we have already lost over 6,000 acres of forest to solar energy, why would we tolerate or encourage the use / destruction of a primary resource when so many? more suitable sites are available?

Fifth, the cost of development. One solar developer said the costs for rooftop and other installations tend to be a bit higher (he estimated at 15%) and explained that when he is competing for contracts, his investors want the lowest result. This leads him, as he put it, to the “fruits at hand” – the forests.

Other commentators have observed that the Commonwealth may have over-banned the standards required for the use of rooftops, thus increasing expenses unnecessarily. It might be, but a look at Maine municipal projects lists plenty of fire stations, schools, town halls, and more. with solar panels on the ground or on the roof, directly benefiting cities and not just developers and investors. We could go further in this direction than we have. It seems to me that an honest plea for solar would lead us in this direction, and not towards more deforestation.

Sixth – and worst – is the claim that “many studies” show that there is a net carbon gain by replacing forests with grids “in some cases”. The studies I see, especially those from Clark University and the Harvard Forest Research Center, contradict this. (They do not confuse a tree with a sign, but compare forests to paintings). Additionally, according to Dr. Willam Moomaw, a white pine stand will accumulate 22 tonnes of carbon per acre. In 50 years the number will rise to over 50 tonnes per acre, and by the time the stand is mature forest 150 years later it will have captured 76 tonnes. When you leave trees alone, they continue to hold carbon. When you cut the forest it drops to zero, and after 25 years you’re back to the start. When you clear the forest, the carbon is released. The strategy of “proforestation” (valuation and sustainable management of standing forests over thirty years old) is essential for climate stability, while the lasting damage from deforestation cannot be underestimated.

Finally, the comment that writers seeking to end deforestation seem to know nothing about the SMART agenda. Well, but alas, we do. This is the program that continues to allow and even compensate solar developers to install panels in forests as if it were an environmental gain. In truth, the only gain is financial. In the first iteration of SMART regulations, before the rise of large commercial networks, the policy prohibited any interference with the construction of networks.

The intention was to ensure a residential application, but the policy was never changed or clarified, much to the developers’ delight. The other criminal flaw is the “encouragement” to build on vacant land and the “discouragement” of the use of forests and agricultural land. This laxity, combined with continued incentives, has resulted in cities being engulfed by large and complex proposals, scathing hearings, legal threats, and extensive (and costly) recourse to the courts to try ambiguous language and contrasting claims of justice. expertise or potential harm. In more than three cases, we suffered what the Attorney General called “irreparable and catastrophic damage” to the environment due to poor location and poor design. And worst of all, it is our taxes which support the destruction of our environment sponsored by SMART – ironically, in the name of environmental stewardship.

Regarding dual-use, farmer Fred Bedsall wrote earlier this year wondering how an agricultural field would recover from the drastic land-use change required for network construction, how the equipment or greenhouses might work under panels and wonder what crops thrive in 50% sunlight. He calls for caution before losing more prime farmland.

The closing argument, not to burden vulnerable areas with our required facilities, rings true as in Shutesbury, already home to unwanted acres of glass and erosion, but subject to attack against protection orders enacted to avoid more damage. The loss of incentives and the costs of court challenges are intimidating for a small community, as the developers well know.

Back to the final statement: In our ever-changing world, we cannot afford to oversimplify the challenges we face. We need to educate ourselves properly on siting solar installations and work together to balance the priorities as we move towards carbon neutrality.

To this I say amen.

Judith Mann lives in Belchertown.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest column from Judith Mass: We need to educate ourselves well on solar implantation
Guest column from Judith Mass: We need to educate ourselves well on solar implantation
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