Destroying landscapes to accommodate solar

The article, “State to consider reopening door for proposed Killingly natural gas plant,” (Feb. 14), reported that several environmental groups were opposed to a new 650 megawatt-hour, natural gas fired plant, in part because the proposed site “… is adjacent to the 32-acre Dunn Preserve …”. Many environmentalists advocate substituting renewables such as photovoltaic solar arrays. 

The photovoltaic industry has proven that about six acres of solar panels, including their structural supports, maintenance pathways, power conduits, DC to AC inverters, security barriers, engineered provision for foundations and drainage can (after any tall vegetation is cleared from the site) generate about one megawatt of electricity per hour in sunshine. 

Statistics suggest that about 17 percent of the total hours in a New England year are sunny. 

Multiplying our six-acre rule-of-thumb by the inverse of 17 percent indicates that, to produce the electricity equivalent to a 650 megawatt-hour gas-fired generator operating day and night, rain and shine, throughout the year, would require a solar facility footprint of about 23,000 acres (36 square miles). 

Clearly, if you willfully choose to politically protect 32 acres while physically bulldozing 23,000 acres, you might be called an environmentalist, but then again, you might not. 

Lou Palone



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