A temporary pause on large-scale solar makes sense

Posted: 02/22/2022 14:02:48 Modified: 02/22/2022 14:02:25 When the Amherst City Council meets Feb. 28, the fate of a temporary util...

Posted: 02/22/2022 14:02:48

Modified: 02/22/2022 14:02:25

When the Amherst City Council meets Feb. 28, the fate of a temporary utility-scale solar moratorium will be decided. The moratorium will suspend the development of any ground-mounted solar over 250 kilowatts for the next 14 months unless a solar regulation, governing large-scale solar development, is created before then.

Amherst should be commended for treading carefully. In addition to the location and potential size of new panels, we are entering a new era in Amherst for industrialized solar. Amherst’s previous solar projects were largely located on open land, not forest or farmland. The conditions surrounding the development of solar panels like the one near Cherry Hill and the one across from the Atkins Market were entirely different. Neither demanded the clearcutting of 45 acres of forest land.

Where solar should be, in Amherst and the region, is the big question. To what extent should the city’s master plan, which calls for keeping critical areas of the highest quality habitats underdeveloped and permanently protected, guide our decisions? In addition, the master plan calls for the identification and permanent protection of land buffering Amherst’s water supply, wells and reservoirs from development. Can it be done?

For Amherst, a Solar Site Assessment Task Force is being created to address these core issues. The task force will be responsible, in part, for analyzing the impacts of large-scale solar development, including battery storage, on our public and private water supplies; on wildlife; on erosion; in case of fire and leakage of hazardous materials.

The siting study will identify opportunities for solar power throughout the community: in the built environment – ​​on rooftops, car park canopies and in the natural landscape. Hopefully, he will calculate the responsibility that colleges and universities should bear by doing their part. This will be an incredible group to lead the way in responsible solar energy development. Why would we want to allow projects to go ahead until we complete this study?

By taking the time that a moratorium offers, we can learn a lot from other cities. The consequences of poor planning and judgment can be critically important lessons learned. We have models of what not to do. The ecological and environmental consequences of poorly placed solar can be disastrous. One need only look at what happened in Williamsburg and Conway to see the results of failed planning, which caused irreparable damage to neighbors and surrounding neighborhoods in those cities.

What do we gain by taking the time offered by a temporary moratorium, the time taken by cities like East Longmeadow, Charlton, Blanford, Granby, Athol, Wendell and others?

The gift of time that we grant ourselves gives us the opportunity to measure the risks and the benefits; fully understand the different scientific perspectives on the implementation of solar energy; understand the recommendations of the Amherst Master Plan; and at the same time engage the city to fully understand what it values ​​when implementing large networks. We have before us a wonderful opportunity to benefit from the history of other cities thanks to large-scale solar; the expertise that the working group will bring to the process; and community voices.

As others have said at many town hall meetings, why don’t we have a temporary moratorium to take this relatively short break to get it right? We have so much to gain!

Eric Bachrach lives in Amherst.

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Newsrust - US Top News: A temporary pause on large-scale solar makes sense
A temporary pause on large-scale solar makes sense
Newsrust - US Top News
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