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Having a brighter outlook on solar

Having read the opinion on the evils of solar energy, I have a few quibbles and a suggestion. Looking at the “facts,” New York’s largest energy sources are one half natural gas, one third nuclear, and one fifth hydro. This is according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As for recycling, solar panels are mostly glass and metal, with some rare earth materials and have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years. Companies like We Recycle Solar are in the forefront of recycling efforts and I’m willing to wager that in 25 to 30 years, the South Ripley panels will be fully recycled.

My suggestion is for folks to stop looking at these large community solar projects as having to choose between “green farmland and forests”, which in no way describes the Ripley site, and “wastelands.” I offer to the public the term “agrivoltaics”, the win-win coexistence of agriculture and solar.

In ConnectGen’s case, the company has a history of blending solar farming with sheep farming. Solar companies have plans generically labeled Vegetation Management to deal with the upkeep of the acreage in a responsible and as environmentally friendly way as is feasible. Sheep farming is already being done on other solar sites and quite successfully at that. And the Ripley site is right on a major highway.

Think of the benefits this could bring to our area. We know farming requires employees and we have people looking for work. We have a strong 4-H program and this could benefit in several ways from a large, local sheep farm. It could become a Learning Center, paired up with Cornell Cooperative like they have in Ithaca. And it could definitely be a tourist draw.

Please believe me, folks, I’m not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. We have an opportunity here to do some good things for our county and no one is going to stop the renewable energy tidal wave. I say we ride it for all it’s worth. One more thing. I highly recommend watching Shaun the Sheep. It can make even a dour Luddite smile.

Bob Reuther is a Lily Dale resident.

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