To the Editor:
At the [Great Barrington] annual town meeting on May 1, residents of Great Barrington voted to approve two amendments to the Planning Board’s proposed solar bylaws (a more regressive measure, proposed by Holly Hamer, was voted down). These amendments limit ground-based solar arrays in certain residential zones, and they do so for cosmetic reasons. It’s hard to know what impact the amendments will have, since ground-based arrays are nobody’s first choice, but if they serve to block even a single solar project, the town has something to answer for.
The suggestion that solar arrays are ugly and ought to be kept out of sight is not one to which I’m sympathetic, but that’s not the point. I do not accept the proposition that spurious aesthetic concerns justify limiting, even to a small extent, our capacity to generate clean energy. A number of residents argued that solar technology changes quickly, that these arrays may be obsolete next year, that we could be saddled with unsightly and inefficient installations for decades. That might have been an acceptable argument 30 years ago. It is not acceptable now. Next year is a long time from now, and we are far behind.
It may be that we’re not talking about a lot of energy, but it doesn’t matter. The debate was undertaken in bad faith. Every kilowatt comes from somewhere. Every delay gives life to a declining fossil fuel industry. We should kill that industry, not drag our feet, and we should be mindful of the people who suffer as a result of our hesitation. We should remember that even if we had natural gas under our feet in Berkshire County, we would not permit its extraction. We have that luxury. Other people in less prosperous places do not. The more energy we get from natural gas, the more we participate in that larger injustice.
In another sense, however, the people who have the most to lose as a result of climate change were not present at the meeting. My own14-month-old son was at home with a babysitter. A group of older people made decisions about his future. He — not they — will have to live with the consequences.
If bylaws can be amended once, they can be amended twice. We should strike these amendments at the first opportunity, re-elect Malcolm Fick and Jonathan Hankin to the Planning Board, and follow their prudent guidance.
7 Benton Ave.
Great Barrington, Mass.