My Turn: Services that forests perform are many

  • agnormark

Published: 6/14/2021 8:44:05 AM

Margaret Sheehan recently wrote an article, “Solar Gone Wrong,” in “Commonwealth,” saying “Jessica Robertson and Daniel Berwick would be well-advised to take the advice they offer in their recent opinion piece, that we should “shift the conversation from where solar shouldn’t go to where it should.”

The Commonwealth’s Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target Program, SMART, incentivizes projects located on buildings, parking lot canopies, landfills, brownfields, and “dual-use” solar and agriculture projects, as well as certain types of projects that benefit public entities, like municipalities, or that provide lower-cost electricity to multiple customers (“community-shared”). It seems as though these incentives are not enough to keep solar developers from seeking to destroy our forests.

In southeastern Massachusetts, Borrego Solar is responsible for the deforestation of at least 300 acres of globally rare pine barrens forests — one of three on earth. The Plymouth/Carver sole source aquifer has been deprived of the soil, sand and forests that filter the groundwater that supplies seven towns with drinking water. Rare and threatened plant and animal species have been obliterated.

Similar destruction is happening in Western Massachusetts. Large, sometimes foreign, corporations search for the least expensive land on which to site solar arrays. These industrial enterprises threaten to destroy acres of forest land in our rural towns. What is being taken — the carbon-sequestering forests and biological diversity — is priceless.

Mass Audubon is sounding the alarm and exposing the horrifying deforestation of Massachusetts — about 4,000 acres for ground-mounted solar. The trend is accelerating under misguided state energy subsidies and the call for “electrification of everything.” Electrification of the grid with ground-mounted solar that destroys forests and threatens water supplies is a fool’s mission.

As Dr. William Moomaw, of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, says, “We shouldn’t be putting solar arrays on our prime agricultural land or our forest lands. You lose all the functionality of the forest when you cut the trees.”

The services that forests perform are many, with carbon sequestration being but one. We do need to use the energy of the sun, but not at the expense of the living ecosystem on earth.

Laurel Facey lives at Sugarbush Farm in Wendell. Margaret Sheehan, a Plymouth resident, is a volunteer with Save the Pine Barrens Inc.

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