Solar power is a smart investment

In the commentary, “Making it tough to pass on solar,” (March 6) cherry picks from a hash of pseudofacts. She relies almost exclusively on the debunked film, “Planet of the Humans” and a Forbes op-ed contending that renewable power gets too much in tax credit. As usual with such opponents, she ignores the converse: not encouraging renewable energy results in continued subsidies to fossil fuel companies.

We may not get Phoenix levels of sun in Western New York, but we still should welcome large-scale solar for its positive effect on our environment and economy. Naturally, solar runs at a lower capacity than other forms of energy production, since it has zero capacity at night. But solar power only needs light, not actual sun, to operate, and batteries can store the excess power of sunny days. Solar power will lower our energy bills while providing investment in our communities. That solar companies like ConnectGen make money is a necessary part of the equation, not a crime. Tax credits to encourage such companies are public policy to counteract the enormous social cost of fossil fuel-generated greenhouse gases, which we pay in air pollution and climate disaster.

Then the writer cherry picks which uses of toxic materials to disapprove. The toxic materials used to make solar panels are the same ones used for the electronic devices none of us seem to be able to live without.

As for life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of creating renewable power, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, most estimates for solar power range from no more than 0.2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour vs. up to 2 for natural gas and 3.6 for coal. And what about her backhand advocacy of nuclear power? What is more toxic and dangerous than nuclear waste, not to mention a nuclear melt down? There is an inevitable environmental cost to any technology; the right question to ask is, which technology is less bad?

Finally, the writer’s anti-solar appeal boils down to an emotional not-in-my-backyard argument on aesthetic grounds: that solar installations result in “destruction of a large portion of a pristine, rural community.”

Where is her concern for the rights of struggling farmers and property owners in her community who want to lease their land for solar installations? Where is her concern for communities elsewhere blighted by fossil-fuel plants that she doesn’t have to look at? Where is her concern for solving the climate crisis, which solar-generated power is one of the keys to mitigating?

Some of us regard solar installations as beautiful beacons of hope for our communities, for our state, and for the planet. The necessary public investments are worth it. I wish that the writer could see it that way, too.

Lisa Mertz is a Mayville resident.


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