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Think twice about clear-cutting forests for solar

The association is among a growing number of environmental and conservation organizations taking the position that, as long as better options exist that will support solar installations, clear-cutting forests for solar is the wrong approach to mitigating climate change. ...ground-mounted arrays consume open space, diminish forest-based carbon sequestration and cooling, fragment wildlife habitat and degrade the other important resource values of our natural lands.

Massachusetts’ policy on solar placement wisely discourages forest clear-cutting.

I write in response to your March 6 Cheers & Jeers editorial “Another virus to stop: NIMBYism.”

As a leading voice calling for aggressive climate policies on the local, regional, state and federal levels, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod is a strong regional advocate for increasing renewable energy production. Solar energy is a vital part of the commonwealth’s renewable energy portfolio, and there is great need for more responsible solar energy production on Cape Cod. Enormous opportunity exists for ramping up solar use, especially over parking lots, rooftops, and – for larger-scale solar arrays – on landfills, sand mining sites and brownfields.

However, projects like the proposed AMP Energy project in Sandwich, a clear-cut of nearly 11 acres out of an 18-acre currently wooded parcel must be considered in the context of how we transition to clean energy in a responsible manner that does not harm the very resources we are trying to protect from climate change and other forces.

The association is among a growing number of environmental and conservation organizations taking the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Massachusetts’ policy on solar placement wisely discourages forest clear-cutting.

I write in response to your March 6 Cheers & Jeers editorial “Another virus to stop: NIMBYism.”

As a leading voice calling for aggressive climate policies on the local, regional, state and federal levels, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod is a strong regional advocate for increasing renewable energy production. Solar energy is a vital part of the commonwealth’s renewable energy portfolio, and there is great need for more responsible solar energy production on Cape Cod. Enormous opportunity exists for ramping up solar use, especially over parking lots, rooftops, and – for larger-scale solar arrays – on landfills, sand mining sites and brownfields.

However, projects like the proposed AMP Energy project in Sandwich, a clear-cut of nearly 11 acres out of an 18-acre currently wooded parcel must be considered in the context of how we transition to clean energy in a responsible manner that does not harm the very resources we are trying to protect from climate change and other forces.

The association is among a growing number of environmental and conservation organizations taking the position that, as long as better options exist that will support solar installations, clear-cutting forests for solar is the wrong approach to mitigating climate change. The continued growth of solar energy must be encouraged and directed to rooftops, parking lot canopy systems and brownfield sites rather than ground-mounted arrays that consume open space, diminish forest-based carbon sequestration and cooling, fragment wildlife habitat and degrade the other important resource values of our natural lands.

According to the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Losing Ground 2020 Report, which tracks the rate of development in Massachusetts, roughly 6,000 acres of forest and farmland in Massachusetts were converted to ground-based solar between 2012 and 2017 – one-quarter of all development in the state.

Massachusetts’ policy on solar placement wisely discourages forest clear-cutting. The state’s Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program, or SMART, established to create a sustainable solar development incentive program, adopted a policy that increases financial incentives for rooftop, parking lot and brownfield site projects, and reduces incentives for projects on undeveloped land.

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources model bylaw for siting solar states: “DOER strongly discourages locations that result in significant loss of land and natural resources, including farm and forest land, and encourages rooftop siting, as well as locations in industrial and commercial districts, or on vacant, disturbed land. Significant tree cutting is problematic because of the important water management, cooling, and climate benefits trees provide.” According to the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, Massachusetts forests currently absorb more than 15% of the carbon generated in Massachusetts every year.

The Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative, a coalition of organizations, businesses and faith groups dedicated to moving the Cape to net- zero emissions by 2050, recently released a position statement endorsing the state’s policy against clear-cutting forested land for solar. According to the statement, “When sited in undeveloped areas, commercial scale ground based solar arrays threaten the amount of forest cover on Cape Cod. The Climate Collaborative recommends prioritizing siting of such solar arrays, siting on brown fields, old industrial sites, depleted gravel pits and paved parking lots, and avoid undeveloped sites, such as forests or open fields.”

It is also important to understand that in selecting a forested site for solar, the carbon-reduction benefits of the solar array are significantly diminished with the loss of the carbon sequestration value of the cleared forest. This would not be the case if an equal-sized solar array were sited on a previously disturbed site while the undisturbed forest continued capturing carbon. Forested lands provide essential habitat and help maintain water quality in addition to capturing carbon.

Clearly, our nation, state and region must respond to the global climate crisis with effective measures to reduce our carbon emissions through the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar. But in doing so, Cape Cod must act responsibly and be mindful of the natural resources we strive to protect that define our region, and to not destroy them in the process. Sure, it’s easier and more profitable for solar developers to convert green space to solar than it is to work on already disturbed land; but promoting short-term profit instead of more beneficial projects without the negative climate, water quality and habitat implications is clearly the better public policy outcome. Until every rooftop, parking lot, landfill or gravel pit on Cape Cod is covered in solar, clear-cutting our remaining open, forested lands should be off the table.

Andrew Gottlieb of Mashpee is executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod.


Source: https://www.capecodtimes.co...

MAR 18 2020
http://www.windaction.org/posts/51057-think-twice-about-clear-cutting-forests-for-solar
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