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Smart solar choices

Solar panel projects continue to pit seeming allies against one another. These solar fields are intended to meet a goal that environmentalists back — reducing fossil-fuel emissions. But environmentalists have opposed some of these projects on the belief they can do more harm than good.

Such is the case with a solar-field project planned between the Oil Mill and Stony brooks in Waterford. About 46,000 solar panels will be installed over 75 acres of what is largely wooded land. The property is listed as 117 Oil Mill Road.

The environmental group Save the River-Save the Hills has opposed the project. They fear the planned stormwater control is not sufficient. As a result, during downpours, say the project opponents, warm and nutrient-enriched water, thick with sediments, could damage the ecosystems of the brooks, which support trout.

In 2018, the Connecticut Siting Council, charged with reviewing and deciding whether to approve energy projects, rejected an earlier application because of the concerns raised. But recently the council, on a 3-1 vote, gave its approval to the new scaled-down version with added stormwater control measures.

Hopefully, the council is correct. Now that the decision has been made, Deb Moshier-Dunn, vice president of the Save the River-Save the Hills group, struck the right sentiment in expressing a willingness to work with the developer to make the project as environmentally safe as possible. The developer, GRE Gacrux LLC, should reciprocate by being transparent and open to suggestions.

Solar fields can play a significant role in meeting the state’s goal of a 45% reduction in emissions, under 2001 levels, by the end of the decade. The project planned in Waterford, when weather conditions are ideal, will push out enough power for 3,000 homes. Solar has the added benefit of supplying maximum power when it is in highest demand — hot, sunny days.

However, the legislature should consider a new approach to locating solar fields, either by way of mandates or incentives. It does not make sense to take down trees, sacrifice open space or use former farmland when other options are available. Place them along highways, or in other developed areas, where the drainage and habitats are already artificial. Utilize former industrial sites, where soil contamination makes traditional redevelopment difficult or impossibly costly. Convert big-box retail roofs to solar fields. Promote solar for individual homes.

Solar energy is a smart choice, but only if done smartly. 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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