Amrita Rutter and Jane Scanlan-Emigh: Time for solar panels at ARHS

Published: 9/1/2023 6:56:06 PM
Modified: 9/1/2023 6:55:33 PM

Amherst can’t seem to agree on solar panels. Though they are often considered the end-all and be-all of sustainable energy solutions, they rank staunchly above forested land preservation for some, and rank just as staunchly below for some.

As a town, we have dawdled around dawdling with solar panels. Debates on whether a moratorium on solar construction on forested land until further research on its effects on local ecosystems took months. Some claimed that solar construction contaminated properties and expressed concern for wildlife, others in turn called them NIMBYs and urged that the council forge ahead.

There is now opportunity for action that all Amherst residents should be able to agree on: a parking lot solar canopy. Town Manager Paul Bockelman is currently debating whether to use ARPA funds to create a solar canopy over the Amherst Regional High School parking lot. This array would greatly reduce the carbon footprint of our school as well as providing shade for the cars in the parking lot.

In a survey by the town this year in April, respondents overall expressed that using roofs and parking lots for solar installations were among the things they were most excited about when it came to establishing solar energy in Amherst.

Parking lots are sorely underutilized spaces for panels in the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the country’s total solar capacity would increase five- to ten-fold if 50% of all parking lots had solar arrays installed over them.

We have been working on this project for four years now, and to see our town fulfill its potential in this way at long last would be a joy. This is Amherst’s chance to act. There are no trees to be felled in the construction of the array, no wildlife to be harmed (birds, in fact, may make their homes on the tops of panels). This is a chance to remind — or perhaps initially convince — the current Amherst Regional High School generation and prove to ourselves as residents that our town does care about climate change and the future of its children.

The allocation of ARPA funds toward this project would resolidify our status as a truly progressive town and make Amherst a role model for surrounding towns. Most importantly, it would get us closer to our goal of cutting our emissions in half by 2025.

Sunrise Amherst urges that Bockelman recommend ARPA funds for the installation of a solar array over the ARHS parking lot. Town officials have stated countless times their commitment to meeting Amherst’s carbon emission reduction goals. This is their chance to follow through.

Amrita Rutter and Jane Scanlan-Emigh live in Amherst. They wrote this on behalf of Sunrise Amherst.


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