My Turn: Help the environment without destroying the beauty of our area


Published: 2/26/2021 11:09:46 AM

In his piece “Taking the Long View” Andrew Baker makes a case for solar arrays on farmland. He reminds us that out landscape has changed over many years. At one time much of it was cleared and new housing projects alter it often. But I feel that we that we must protect the beauty of what we have left and that large solar arrays are too much of a change.

Jackie Firsty, project developer for Blue Wave Solar says that her company has done studies which indicate that housing prices do not go down when the homes are near large solar arrays. But there are plenty of studies confirming that housing prices do decline because of the solar installations. People do not like the way they look.

Baker agrees that he would rather have solar panels on roofs. But he points out that Franklin and Hampshire counties don’t have enough roofs to make up for the closing down of nuclear and coal plants in the past. But there are plenty of roofs and parking lots in our cities. In my view that’s where solar panels should be going. Our government should make this attractive for the solar industry and give our farmers whatever tax breaks and price controls they need.

Baker suggests that when we have new and better ways of producing energy and the solar panels on the L’Etoiles’ farm are worn out (in 20 or 30 years) they could be taken down and recycled and the land returned to producing crops. While solar panels can be recycled the Institute for Energy Research points out: “much (solar) waste ends up in landfills where toxic chemicals leach into the soil … the recycling costs are generally more than the economic value of the material recovered”.

I think too that we need to ask some questions about the costs of dismantling the panels. Is Blue Wave Solar going to be required put enough money in escrow for the panels removal? Is this company going to be in business in 20 or 30 years? Will the the L’Etoiles’ heirs be interested in paying for the panels removal? The two wind turbines in Falmouth were ordered shut down in 2015 and 2017 but the expense of their removal means that they may be there into the distant future. I’m afraid that this will be the fate of large solar arrays.

Baker is clearly a thoughtful, caring person who like myself is concerned about his grandchildren. But I don’t want to leave my children and grandchildren with an industrialized landscape littered with rusting solar panels and I believe that we can help the environment without destroying the beauty of our area.

The Mohawk Trail was recently designated one of the Nations Byways because of its historic scenic beauty. People have visited the Trail in large numbers since it opened in 1914. The charm and loveliness of our towns like Northfield and the views of the Connecticut River bring tourists from many places. I question whether visitors seeking the solace of beautiful country places will want to visit an industrialized landscape. Blue Wave Solar will not stop with the L’Etoiles’ farm in Northfield.

Trina (Kathryn) Sternstein is a resident of Hawley.

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