To the Editor:
The Rochester Planning Board is currently discussing solar panels. We have concerns about the impact of the panels should the site be abandoned. The problem is this. An economic analysis of solar panels quickly shows that there is no economic justification for these installations without substantial Government subsidization. For example, the installation currently under construction at the New Bedford Water Works site in Rochester has a payback period of 60 years. The applicant in that installation agreed that the project would not be considered without the props provided by the government.
As governments are learning, the subsidies to solar energy are not paying off. Look at the massive losses and bankruptcies in the industry, all funded by taxpayer dollars.
There is growing pressure on government to end the wasteful subsidies.
The economic justification, while a concern to all taxpayers, is not a matter for the Planning Board, but what happens to the installed solar panels when the subsidies are cancelled is a real concern. These HUGE arrays of panels are displacing natural areas. They block surface water from rainfall, may involve extensive clear cutting and if abandoned, are a mechanical hazard. Children especially will be drawn to such sites where they will be at risk of injury and laceration.
The solar installations will not operate for the sixty years required to recover the investment. Generous estimates put the life of current equipment at twenty years. If a solar installation has to fall back on private economic support, the return will not pay for the upkeep, and that may lead to abandonment.
In Rochester we are working to craft a bylaw that addresses the requirement of the owner to dismantle and remove the installation if it is decommissioned and not maintained. We are exploring the possibility of requiring a bond to cover the cost that would be born by the Town if the installation is abandoned.
Marion and all communities would be well advised to consider the potential for adverse consequences when commercial enterprises require the artificial support provided by Government subsidy. Sadly, the free market will not step in to unburden these economically unjustifiable nuisances.
Furthermore, landowners who are by their own designs, or as a result of the many solicitations made by the promoters of these taxpayer funded solar schemes, should consider the wisdom and the justice of participating in an economically unfeasible enterprise by which they will be enriched at their neighbor’s expense.
Bendrix Bailey, Member, Rochester Planning Board
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