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Farm, forest or solar - NE CT  RSS feed

 
Rebecca Hyde
Posts: 9
Location: Woodstock, CT
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160 acres of land in a neighboring town is about to be converted into a solar farm. The panels are expected to cover 100 acres. This is the "quiet corner" of CT - just far enough from Providence, Hartford, Worcester, Boston and NYC not to have been densely developed. 40" of rain a year, rocky, field, forest and swamp, zone 6 (barely). Traditionally rather poor with some mill towns. CT as a whole has one nuclear power plant and has been aiming to build out natural gas infrastructure to feed power plants, as well as send on to Massachusetts. That would be fracked gas from Pennsylvania. There's also a power plant not too far away that's burning wood. Electricity retails at about 19 cts per kWh average.

It seems like a bad idea to cover corn fields with solar panels. Ugly, and none of the services that forest provides. But regional demand for energy is high, nuclear and gas aren't good options, wind speeds are variable to low. And on the whole, people are not deeply engaged with the land here.

So maybe this solar farm is OK, or even a good thing.

Any comments?  Is this a reasonable part of Connecticut's energy plan?
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 401
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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Acre for acre I'm guessing that solar panels can be more beneficial for the environment in general than growing corn. But isn't CT at too high a latitude and too cloudy for them to be efficient?

Dollar for dollar, I'm guessing that the cost of 100 acres of solar panel could fund 1000s of acres of (re)forestation, and this would be preferable to the panels, even if it meant that gas/coal had to be burned. I don't support nuke power in any circumstances except maybe space exploration because no one has convincingly come up with a solution for dealing with the risks and waste.

Back to panels vs trees, I guess the right answer is a mix. Even if it's not ideal now, the fact we are doing a mix gets us, as a species, more information and more expertise, and enables in theory better future decisions. It's a shame subsidies and the CO2 scaremongering get in the way because otherwise price discovery/market forces could be used to find which is best for a particular usage scenario. Price is a good indication of resources used. The high cost of wind/solar is an indication of the amount of diesel, concrete, rare earth minerals and manpower that go into their construction and maintenance. If solar/wind is costing more per Kwh than gas power, then somewhere, someone is burning a lot of fossil fuel to pay for the "renewables".
 
Chris Wells
Posts: 68
Location: Zone 2b, Canadian Rockies
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forest garden hugelkultur solar
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By Monsanto's own numbers, it takes 20 years before glyphosate is reduced from the soil to the point nutrient uptake and transportation within plants begins to look normal again. I'd be very happy to have land near me removed from the present farming system, that it might be pristine when it's needed most. There will come a day when natural land is of great value, and on that day the solar farm can be relocated to a field that they're busy burning out today.

 
frank li
Posts: 207
Location: Michigan
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Nice Chris, solar farms dont do any where near tha damage a season or two of industrial farming and chemical spraying does. We dont need the corn and cant use the land after such desecration (industrial farming) so rotation cropping of pv arrays is an improvement until the death wears off...20 yearss and maybe never.

Hold the cow. I love solar but unless some evil careless people are forcing a nuke plant, leave the forests in place!...
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Don't be too sure that glyphosate won't be used to keep brush and trees from growing up around the solar panels. 

I agree with anyone who says what we mostly need to do is reduce demand for energy, not try to figure out how to produce more energy, so I agree with leave the forest.
 
frank li
Posts: 207
Location: Michigan
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Don't be too sure that glyphosate won't be used to keep brush and trees from growing up around the solar panels. 
.


I feel the same way Tyler. I have convinced my clients that there is no reason for herbicide and its use is a negative. The biggest dodge was an acre size plant that i designed and built for a machine shop owner!

Commercial and utility scale ground mounts are scary to be involved in for just the reason you stated. The temptation is there and that is one reason why i no longer perform installation or design of commercial and industrial scale pv.

My direction has always been to help within the organics community but i now refuse to help people and organizations that would do something such as spray roundup in order to enhance aesthetics, profit or offset of cost by spraying toxics. Our focus is now on environmental protection and the independent homestead, the reason that i started a foot on the path to my occupation in the first place.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9744
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I used to be in favor of big projects because I thought they meant the alternative was becoming mainstream, that large embodies "efficiencies of scale," but more recently I have decided those are not sufficient arguments.  Now I think large projects tend to concentrate wealth in fewer hands and that efficiencies of scale are actually cutting corners and choosing the superficially cheaper practices which just push real costs to health/environment down the road.

 
Chris Wells
Posts: 68
Location: Zone 2b, Canadian Rockies
3
forest garden hugelkultur solar
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What happened to the movement to lease out roof space to the power companies? Think of the square footage that's already prepared and untapped.
 
frank li
Posts: 207
Location: Michigan
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Chris Wells wrote:What happened to the movement to lease out roof space to the power companies? Think of the square footage that's already prepared and untapped.


Directly or indirectly, the utility may have bought all the lease companies or affilliated financiers, so they dont need to lease your roof you will lease their equipment and the benificiary stays the beneficiary of the structure, while image is managed so as to encourage leasing.

It does two things. It keeps the generating capacity and the energy in their association of beneficiaries.
 
Rebecca Hyde
Posts: 9
Location: Woodstock, CT
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Thanks for the replies.  I hadn't given any thought to herbicide application around the panels, or how the panels might be viewed in a long term context of rotational uses of land.  On the whole, I think the matter deserves further "observe and interact" time with the political landscape of CT.  I've done a fair amount of that on the town level, but it's time to look further when large scale forces start to take an interest in local tracts of land.  Discussions like these are helpful in thinking through the issues.
 
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