Stephen Garabedian: Solar development problems

  • AP

Published: 4/22/2021 2:35:06 PM

The recent front-page Gazette article (“State levies $310,000 fine on solar project,” April 16) illustrates the problems that can occur during the development large-scale industrial solar arrays on forested and open areas in the region.

These problems include the uncontrolled release of runoff and sediment from developed areas with subsequent pollution of nearby streams and wetlands. For example, developing a forested area will not only require clear-cutting the forest but also the complete removal of the brush and tree stumps from the area of the solar array.

This process, called “grubbing,” not only removes all of the organic matter from the area, but also ruins the upper part of the soil (the “A” horizon) and significantly reduces the soil fertility. It will take a long period of time to re-establish any significant vegetation in this disturbed area, leaving the site vulnerable to excess stormwater runoff and sediment erosion.

This problem is not unique to forested sites, however, and can occur on open sites that are adjacent to steeply sloped areas where excess storm-water runoff can be generated, for example, at the Williamsburg site (see Gazette article, “Solar developer fined $1.1M for wetlands damage,” Feb. 2, 2021).

Large-scale solar developments need to be held accountable to basic environmental standards that are expected at all residential and industrial developments, irrespective of the importance of noncarbon-based electrical production. But even beyond these basic environmental standards, what sense does it make to build large-scale solar arrays on forested lands with subsidies generated by the public’s electrical bills?

This is a very poorly designed public policy of the commonwealth, when in fact the public should be subsidizing the preservation of forested areas for carbon sequestration and the maintenance of wildlife habitat. Build large-scale solar arrays where they are appropriate, not on steeply forested properties.

Stephen Garabedian


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