My name is John Lewandowski, and I am an 18-year-old resident of the town currently attending college at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For one of my classes I was tasked with writing an opinion piece about an environmental issue in town that resonated with me. I am submitting the piece here in hopes that you will consider publishing it for me. Thank you for your time and consideration.
October 24, 2021
Opinion: Solar Farms in Rehoboth, Mass.
The topic of solar farms in Rehoboth is a contentious issue lately as the proposed project at Camp Buxton has reached the ears of the community. As an outdoor-loving kid who grew up in Rehoboth, I believe that the introduction of a solar farm would directly contradict its own purpose and the natural advantages of our beautiful rural town. Attending college in an urban environment has made me appreciate what I miss from home, and I would be devastated at the desolation of the perfect natural environment in our backyard.
When I was younger, my scout troop visited Camp Buxton because of how perfect of a site it was. The camp was close, spacious, and easy to access for a group of kids that wanted to go run around safely outside for a weekend. Now, however, the proposed solar farms would cut down on the area for people to go outside and connect with nature. Along with this, the construction and traffic on the roads nearby would cause people who normally walk their dogs, bike, and run to drive somewhere safer. Forcing residents to drive elsewhere to be outside, when there is a perfect camp right in town, is a horrible decision that will lead to many small-scale environmental impacts. More people on the roads means more fuel burned and more carbon in the atmosphere, which is a problem.
Another impact of the solar farm would be the destruction of natural land. There are innumerable species of wildlife that can be seen in our backyards, but the construction of the solar farm would disrupt their natural habitat. The birds and squirrels that rely on these trees will likely be forced to adapt or die, and the other species higher up the food chain, like coyotes, will be affected too. The displacement of these animals could also impact the lives of those who live near the site, as dangerous animals could end up in their backyard or as roadkill. The introduction of these animals into someone's backyard would also force them to drive elsewhere just to be outside, which is yet another way that carbon is entering the atmosphere.
In my opinion, however, the most important effect of the farm to consider is the contradiction of its own purpose on the most fundamental level. Normally a solar farm is a great addition to a town as a source of renewable energy. When trees and other plants are cut down to create fields for them, however, it is not worth the cost. Humanity’s carbon emissions are constantly rising, so it is important that as many trees continue to live in areas where they are not used commercially, as they are the main carbon dioxide absorbers throughout the whole world.
Solar farms in other parts of town also suffer from this issue, where they were placed on plots of land that appear to be in the middle of what was once a dense forest, like the one on Summer Street. Along with this, the construction of the panels and infrastructure to support them would further dump carbon into the atmosphere.
It would be more environmentally savvy to construct these solar arrays in areas that are already open to sunlight and would not require intense modification of the area. I believe that the perfect solution to the issue would be to place solar panels on top of as many houses in the area as possible, and in some cases, there could be small arrays constructed in some people’s yards. Another great option would be to imitate what the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School did and place solar panels over parking lots of local businesses.
The main argument of the opposition is that the array will make local energy cheaper and that the town can tax the land. Although this is true, small-scale solar arrays would also make electric bills cheaper, and eventually could be a large step towards houses being totally independent of the power grid. I feel that independence from the hassle of waiting for power to return after constant summer storms would be a no-brainer decision for me, especially since over the past years’ outages have been increasing in frequency and duration. The company creating this solar farm wishes to make a profit off natural land in Rehoboth at the long-term expense of the homeowner and humanity’s future.
There are already petitions and protests about the construction of these panels, but in the end, it is up to the Rehoboth planning board on whether or not the company gets permission. Driving past these solar farms in our town is a constant reminder of their contradictory nature to the sustainability that they could provide in a different location. Not only will wild animals be impacted by our decisions, but local families will be forced to drive longer distances just to be safely outside. The natural beauty of Rehoboth is the town’s greatest asset, so please support the movement against these greedy companies that want to profit off of the destruction of our forests.
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