Solar projects can't save the forest for the trees?

2016-07-24 20:51
Solar panels. (AP)

Solar panels. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Wading River - A green energy project has some environmentalists seeing red.

Solar energy ordinarily wins praise from groups that want to cut greenhouse gases, but a proposed solar project at a defunct Long Island nuclear power plant has stirred outrage because it requires demolishing 140ha of woodlands.

"Choosing solar over forests anywhere in the world is just plain stupid," said Dick Amper, of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. "Solar is very important to fight global warming and beyond, but I'm afraid we're making false choices when you destroy portions of nature and the environment to accomplish that end."

Similar projects are happening elsewhere.

A court fight is brewing over a plan by New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park to cut down nearly 15 000 trees to make way for a solar farm. In Connecticut, state officials recently approved a plan to raze 54ha of trees in the town of Sprague, near Norwich, for a solar energy project.

Alex Hobson, a spokesperson for a Solar Energy industry group in Washington, declined to comment on the Long Island proposal, but said the industry "is committed to responsible use of the land on which we operate and we go to great lengths to protect biodiversity and ecologically fragile lands".

The defunct Shoreham nuclear power plant was completed in 1984 for $6bn, but never opened because of community opposition over potential safety concerns. The solar project backers are hoping to plug into existing electric energy infrastructure on the Shoreham property, with plans for up to 72 megawatts of solar energy, providing power for more than 13 000 homes.

A part of the plan mentions replanting trees elsewhere to offset the cutting of the forest, but a spokesperson for thbe developers did not have details.

Walter Thomas, who teaches a course on solar energy at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, questioned why it was necessary to eliminate any trees at all.

"I would think Long Island would have giant rooftops and parking lots in shopping malls that could be used for large solar projects if that's what's needed," Thomas said.

Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, who lives about 800m from the Shoreham site along the Long Island Sound, isn't buying it. "I favour renewable energy, but in this case it's a very bad trade-off," he said.

The proposal submitted last month still requires extensive regulatory review.

Neal Lewis, executive director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, an environmental advocacy group on Long Island that supports the Shoreham project, said it is always preferable to build solar projects in open spaces that don't require the elimination of large numbers of trees. But he notes that "of all the potential options, there is nothing less impactful on the environment than putting in a solar farm".

"That's the real world we live in and they have a right to develop it."

Read more on:    us  |  solar energy  |  climate change

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.