June 1, 2012
Letters, Massachusetts

Protect the cranberries through an appropriate solar bylaw

Wicked Local Carver | www.wickedlocal.com 1 June 2012

I announced my support of solar for anybody and everybody that wants it at the solar forum recently held at Town Hall in Carver. Residents and businesses should have the right to install as much solar as needed, to provide for their own electricity to lower their carbon footprint, to fight global warming, and to be more self-sufficient. This is what I feel should be protected “by- right,” as long as they follow the rules to be established by the Solar Bylaw Committee.

I support the Ravenbrook and the Route 44 solar projects in Carver. My support is based on the facts that these projects are sited in proper locations and appear to be fiscally responsible at this time. I’m not anti-solar at all, and I’m not motivated by fear or politics. I agree with the state of Massachusetts, which has determined that the “sites best suited for clean energy projects” are “closed landfills, brownfields, and existing drinking water and wastewater treatment plants” – sites exactly like the Ravenbrook project. But the current solar gold rush seemingly has its sights set on the bogs of Carver.

For long-term sustainability, “state unique” agricultural land (ie. cranberry bogs) should be completely off limits to large-scale PV solar arrays, especially the projects designed purely for profit. I’m thinking about our children and grandchildren’s futures, when I say long term. This isn’t California, with thousands of square miles of desert. This is a very small state, with a finite (and retracting) amount of agricultural land currently producing fruit and vegetables.

Massachusetts provides the second highest amount of cranberries in the country, only behind Wisconsin. Solar energy is the most land-intensive source of electricity and simply doesn’t belong in the bogs. Allowing solar power plants built for profit, to convert cranberry bogs, goes directly against the “smart growth” strategies that this state has adopted under Gov. Patrick.

Many farmers (and other landowners) have considerable amounts of marginal land available that could be prime locations for siting solar projects. These are areas that aren’t being used as cranberry bogs, aren’t located close to residential areas, and probably would never produce any agricultural products.

This is an area for compromise in the siting of large-scale solar projects: protect cranberry bogs and make marginal and blighted land available for solar.

I now share with you statements from four experts to support the solar bylaw suggestions that I’m putting forward.

1. From the California Farm Bureau:

“California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said the organization filed suit to assure that large-scale solar power facilities are located in appropriate places: ‘Farmers recognize the potential of solar power’ Wenger said, ‘and California farmers lead the nation in the installation of on-farm solar power generators. But pressure to build utility-scale solar plants has touched off a land rush that threatens thousands of acres of prime farmland. There are millions of acres of marginal land in California. That’s where these power plants should go, so we can conserve prime farmland to grow the crops that sustain our state and nation.’ ”

2. From the Massachusetts Agricultural Commissions’ most recent newsletter:

· Frank reported that farmers are being inundated with proposals from energy developers who want green credits by converting ag land to energy development

· Private developers value the tax credits higher than the sale of the electricity generated

· Third party investors are trying to come in to take energy profits out

3. From the Berkshire Regional Planning Board comments on CLURPA:

· The exemption for off-farm renewable energy projects on agricultural lands should be eliminated;

· If the alternative energy use is solar; that consumes the very land base on which agriculture use is dependent;

· Energy production on farms should be for consumption on that farm. When it was put into the law, solar energy facilities were all for on-site use; this is no longer the case with solar arrays built almost entirely to generate electricity for the grid;

· We believe the legislature needs to determine whether preserving agricultural land in order to preserve our ability to feed ourselves is as or more critical than allowing commercial-scale energy projects to consume scarce agricultural land. We strongly recommend that an exemption for renewable energy on agricultural land only be allowed to support the electricity needs of the agricultural operation

4. From The Massachusetts “Smart Growth/Smart Energy Toolkit”

Preserving Agricultural Land and Farming Opportunities:

Producing more local agricultural products reduces dependence on foreign and out-of-state operations, reduces shipping expenses and oil consumption, and strengthens local economies. Locally grown products employ Massachusetts’ farmers and substantially reduce the costs and impacts of large-scale interstate transport.

The Carver Solar Bylaw Committee should promote smart growth by protecting the cranberry bogs. If they don’t, who will?

—Philip Shannon, Carver

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/06/01/protect-the-cranberries-through-an-appropriate-solar-bylaw/