Dr. Bert Fernandez: Why destroy forests for solar arrays?

Published: 08-09-2023 2:30 PM

After reading Dan Winslow’s guest column [“Wrongly blocking solar in Shutesbury,” Gazette, July 21], I felt compelled to write a response. The writer tried to convince us that we need to sacrifice our forests to create solar energy. He conveniently forgets to mention that there are spaces other than forests available for large scale solar arrays. As I am sure he is aware, environmental scientists have advocated for large arrays to be built on already degraded land, such as abandoned landfills and industrial sites. In addition, there are highway medians, rooftops, and commercial parking lots.

The gold rush however is geared towards forests because that is the most profitable way to do it. The writer represents the New England Legal Foundation (NELF), an organization that “advocates for free enterprise, property rights, rule of law, and inclusive growth.” I suspect NELF is more interested in profit margins than what is best for our planet. It seems to me that this is a time when we need to take into consideration community and global interests as much if not more than the interests of individuals. The column states that “solar farms offset the production of more carbon than the trees such developments replace.” This is by no means a statement with which most reputable scientists would agree. Renowned environmental scientist Dr William Moomaw — a convener of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Nobel Laureate for his work in preservation of forests — certainly disagrees. His studies have shown that carbon sequestration increases exponentially as trees get larger and forests grow older. But even if it were true that solar arrays are as effective as the trees they replace, why destroy forests when there are other options for solar sites?

In creating solutions for the very real challenges we are facing with climate change, we need to exercise restraint. Renewable energy like solar is a must if we are going to get climate change under control. However, doing it at the expense of our forests by letting economics dictate policy is a recipe for disaster. The economic imperative about energy is precisely what brought us to the present crisis. Do we really want to face a hotter planet with fewer trees?

Dr. Bert Fernandez



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