My Turn: Protecting natural environment a balancing act


mactrunk mactrunk


Published: 12-20-2023 6:46 PM

A recent article on, “The Forest and the Trees: Western Mass’ Solar Siting Problem," is incredibly enlightening, and deserves to be read by anyone who values Franklin County’s beautiful natural environment. The issue of balancing solar development with the need to protect our environment and natural habitat is well laid out there. Particularly thought-provoking are sections that describe how current Massachusetts state policies incentivize industrial-scale solar projects, instead of projects that could be developed in already disturbed lands, like making individual rooftop solar affordable, so homeowners can claim financial benefits. This makes our forests, which are recognized as successful at sequestering carbon, opportunistic targets for capital-driven, industrial-scale projects, including the so-called "solar" battery project proposed for forested land in Wendell.

It is not a solar project, but a "buy cheap, sell high" venture like Northfield Mountain. However, it comes claiming a legitimate climate change strategy: potentially to store energy that is produced when the sun shines and the wind blows. But why pit solar activists against biodiversity activists, when in fact, we should be working together to help create an appropriate statewide solar siting plan?

We in Wendell need to stand with our state-wide neighbors, like our friends in Shutesbury, who are fighting a 350-plus acre forest clear cut for a solar array there. We all need to protect our forests and farmlands. We must learn to walk and chew gum at the same time: find a way to resist climate change and protect and value our natural, "carbon-sequestering" environment, with its biodiversity and life-sustaining aquifers (not to mention preserving nature's incomparable beauty!).

We in Wendell find ourselves at a critical juncture in this balancing act, as a potential "sacrifice zone" for the "Forever Growth" economy and its idée fixe, its obsession with profits. If the state can override our Shutesbury and Wendell zoning bylaws to accommodate corporate appetite for profits in inappropriate places, what other community will be able to stand against such opportunistic development? And lithium fires at a project of this size can be toxic for miles. Our fire departments do not have the capacity to put out such fires. Then say good-bye to 50 years of a curated forest greenway, a jewel of Franklin County.

Many thanks to our Wendell Selectboard for its decision to intervene against this massive corporate battery project. We need to support their leadership. And let's find ways to build coalitions with other citizen organizations around the state that are working for appropriate solar, including taking a deep dive into our collective energy use. Maybe the Pioneer Valley could unite as a green zone to resist such industrial-scale environmental sacrifice zones. In the meantime, Wendellians are stepping up to protect our precious forest, as we did when we helped defeat the effort to plow the Kinder Morgan fracked gas pipeline through the middle of Franklin County. Please help us by signing the "No Assault & Batteries" petition. Contact to receive, sign and even circulate it yourself. And be ready to take action.

Court Dorsey lives in Wendell.