The Downside of Solar Farms Across the SouthCoast
To twist Joni Mitchell's hit song "Big Yellow Taxi," I'll say "They paved paradise and put up a solar farm," as people are paying close attention to whether some of the solar farms are creating problems that hurt the environment.
In Wareham, townspeople are concerned about all the trees being cut down to accommodate nearly 20 solar farms on 300 acres of land and at least nine more, tallying an additional 500 acres that are planned. Even those who value clean energy are worried that the cutting down of forests and altering the natural habitats to make room for the solar panels is going too far, according to a piece in the Boston Globe Magazine by Emma Foehringer Merchant.
At Acushnet's Town Meeting this week, the same reservations surfaced as residents voted to place a 180-day moratorium on issuing any new solar farm permits until officials can review the present bylaws.
"There are 20 permits out right now, but neighbors have a lot of questions about any possibility of hazardous materials 20 to 25 years down the road, and to be honest, I don't think we need all these solar farms," said Town Meeting voter Norman Fredette.
"Solar electricity isn't less expensive, compared to natural gas or oil, to power factories and manufacturing," said the licensed contractor.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources estimates approximately 2,500 acres of trees have been cut down to put up solar panels in the last 10 years.
"I'm old school about this. If solar was such a great deal, you'd have a lot more people jumping on the bandwagon," Fredette said. "Besides, the cutting down of trees and forests adversely affects our environment, as well as our local vegetation and wildlife, and have you seen the interference with rainfall and drainage they cause?"
It's not about being in favor or opposed to generating solar energy. It's about doing the right thing. I don't think it's "old school" to pause as a community, like Wareham and Acushnet, and look very closely at all the issues here.
I also don't think it's old school to discover if solar farms do harm the environment, then it's not worth it, in many, but not all cases.