Many energy related decisions will be at the community level.   The issues range from zoning and building approvals for individual buildings to the installation of large scale energy systems.

Two major issues: NIMBY (not in my backyard) and trying for perfection (the old adage: “the perfect is the enemy of the good”).

The current (as of May 2010) poster child of the NIMBY movement is the opposition to the coastal wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts.  I firmly believe the US must move, quickly, toward wind and solar power.  And that means wind and solar installations in someone’s backyard.  I can understand and sympathize with the local residents who fear their ocean view will be marred by 130 turbines spinning in the morning sun.  But they need to be built somewhere.  Continued legal arguments and trying to shift the farm to some other location – where the whole process will repeat itself – is quite pointless.  We will have to retrain ourselves to look on spinning turbines as industrial artworks and things of beauty.

Smaller projects are much easier; in our little town the school has installed a solar PV system, with little fanfare and competitive bids below budget.

On the larger scale things get difficult.  There is an exciting proposal to build a 5MW solar plant on some long idle land at the edge of town.  The “perfect” use is for some mix of residential, commercial, recreation making best use of the foreshore location and generating some tax revenue for the town.  The solar PV plant is merely “good”.

We’ll follow developments on that idea with our usual “realistic” bent.

The story so far – this is a prime site for development; beautiful waterfront location, views to New York City, Staten Island, Brooklyn, the approaches to New York Harbor and the Verrazano bridge.  Close to all transport, marinas and other water sport facilities.   Fishing is great, wild life abounds and even oysters are being reintroduced to the bay. The site has national historic significance.   The real estate brochure just writes itself!

So what’s the problem?  Why isn’t this site covered with luxury apartments, restaurants and recreation facilities?  Because there is an old landfill just below the surface nicely blended with industrial pollution.  The EPA will have something to say about any development and there will be a price tag attached.

All the high density housing developers disappeared with the financial crunch.  Nobody wants to develop another golf course.  Other great proposals like a ferry terminal to NYC are just too difficult, expensive and dependent on subsidies from every level of government.

So suddenly up pops this great idea – put a 25-35 acre solar farm on top.  The landfill can simply be capped.   Nobody will live on top of the fill, no vehicle movements.  And everything else is a plus; no pollution, no traffic, no noise, no lights, no sewer, no water supply, no gas lines, no drain on the town resources like police, fire, school, hospital – just clean electricity out.  And it can be spun into another draw for the town – SolarCity, NJ…

Where is the realist on this?  Very positive but still a bit hesitant until the details come clear.  This is 25+ acres of black(ish) PV panels – how will the neighbors react once they realize just how large this thing will be?  Capping the landfill is good and necessary, but where will the rainwater runoff go?  Does the erection of this plant make any other development for the remainder of the site, another 20 or so acres, impossible and will the old factory building just stay there forever?

From this angle it doesn't look so pretty, but take my word for it it's great on the bay side.

From this angle it doesn't look so pretty, but take my word for it it's great on the bay side.

We’ll keep you updated…


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