I was recently shown an article about a proposed solar farm in Brookhaven, featured in Long Island's local Newsday. As someone very interested and optimistic about sustainable energy, I was delighted to hear that 200 acres were to be allocated for the farm. According to the article over four thousand homes would be freed from the tyranny of some power plant, besmirching the air wherever it may be. The customers' payments would not even increase by a dollar for the extra effort in extracting alternating current from the sun.
Yet this beautiful idea came with a footnote just as big. The 200 aces mentioned currently exist as pine barrens habitat, which is a rare sort of ecosystem in the state. Eastern Long Island has some excellent tracts that support uncommon and local flora and fauna. These places have been preserved to keep a way of life as it naturally exists on Long Island, so it does not make much sense in discarding them for a different project. Sure, solar power helps alleviate the stress of pollutants on all living organisms in the long run, but so do the carbon dioxide-absorbing trees that already occupy the property.
The fate of this small corner of the pine barrens is likely out of our hands. But what have we learned? Separately, a solar farm and a forest work together to benefit our environment. A patch of Pitch Pine is not an ideal place for a solar farm as it is now. The habitat must be razed so that the panels can occupy more space and so the requisite sunlight my shine upon them. If an effort is being made to reconstruct the habitat to suite the brigade of panels, why not relocate them elsewhere in the future? Even notorious large businesses have found that having a green perspective can be lucrative, so why would superstores not be willing to add a solar cover to their immense parking lots, for example? Then both trees and solar parking lots are working in our favor, plus your car's innards won't be melting when you come out of the mall.
Sites for followup on some of these thoughts:
"200-acre solar farm planned at Brookhaven Lab." by Jennifer Smith. Newsday.
CO2 Now. Check for current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and other information.
"Will Big Business Save the Earth?" by Jared Diamond. New York Times Op-Ed. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/opinion/06diamond.html>