Commentary – Yes to Solar Power – No to Where It’s Proposed
by Jessie Price, October 20, 2011.....
I am writing to urge everyone who loves Charlotte’s beautiful setting and views to contact the selectboard and let them know that you oppose the proposed solar panel installation at Thompson’s Point. While I support solar power and happen to have an AllEarth tracker panel in my yard, the conserved open land of Thompson’s Point is a terrible choice for a solar panel installation. The proposed location is a rolling open field, which has traditionally been used for farming and is in fact part of the Charlotte conservation district. It perfectly exemplifies the “rural nature” of Charlotte, which residents and tourists alike appreciate.
I love the idea that this sort of array would provide renewable energy for town buildings. However, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of developing town-owned land, that is currently conserved…meaning it shouldn’t be developed, especially commercially. For the town, this project isn’t about the money (it will only make $300/year) but rather so that we can feel good about using green energy. But for AllEarth this is certainly a commercial enterprise. And as such, it seems that it should be in a part of town where we allow commercial development. Some other spots where we allow commercial ventures? How about behind Town Hall? How about along Route 7? Or what about near the Velco substation/train station?
Our town plan, which states that we should support green energy, has been cited often in the past few Selectboard meetings as the reason for this project. But I’d like to point out that some other key parts of the town plan are being disregarded in this process. Here are some direct quotes from the town plan along with my comments:
“Charlotte’s planning goals and policies support the concentration of growth in or near the existing settlements of East and West Villages.“ Development near the villages will help keep other land open. Sounds great. “The villages of East and West Charlotte will provide for housing, commercial services, and public buildings and facilities.” Solar panels to power town buildings certainly fall under the public facilities and/or commercial services classification, don’t they?
According to the town plan the town is well aware that Charlotte residents appreciate open land and beautiful views. “Charlotte residents have continued to express a desire to see the open land of the Town preserved and the rural character protected.” In fact “future growth and development should be focused in the village areas to help prevent dispersed development and protect open space and farms. In addition, the number one problem facing Charlotte cited by the majority of respondents was development/growth/sprawl and loss of open space and rural character.“
Furthermore the town plan has a special section about Thompson’s Point. Some highlights from that: “Even though the camps are relatively close together, one has the feeling of privacy and open space at Thompson’s Point, due to the large amount of undeveloped land in the center of the Point, dense woods, and the lake.” That undeveloped land in the center of the Point is where the solar panels would go.
And finally about all that beautiful open space at Thompson’s Point the plan says the following: “The open space should be maintained in perpetuity.” If you put solar panels in that open space, then it is no longer open.
I have been visiting Thompson’s Point for the last 38 years. To me, the Point is a treasure. I oppose the solar panels because I want to preserve and protect Thompson’s Point. I hope our selectboard will also choose to protect our conserved land. Instead, let’s take the time and do more thorough research to find the very best way for Charlotte to support renewable energy.