Opinion: Solar helps farmers, creates jobs

This week’s writer is Gregg Beldock, founder and CEO of Bullrock-Deutsche-Eco, a solar energy firm based in Shelburne.
Middlebury Professor and author Bill McKibben wrote, in January 2011, to activists throughout the country, “Now it’s time for people who have spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere to step up … just as many of us did for civil rights or for peace.”
We all know by now that we have to make a change, a big change and darn quickly, to stem the tide of devastating climate degradation. Like nuclear proliferation, the anti-war movement and the equal rights amendment, change of such magnitude, change with such tremendous sociological and now physiological consequence has historically been motivated by the energies of students, campuses, professors, legislators and intellectuals. Typically, these initiatives are initially met with resistance from a loud minority lacking both perspective and vision.
The gallant renewable energy initiative born in our Statehouse and heralded nationally may be dying just as notable a death. Under the guise of protectors of our viewscapes, a minority of short-sighted, quite literally, naysayers are encouraging changes to the acclaimed Vermont Renewable Energy Standard (Act 56). Rather than encourage simple solutions such as screening and landscaping, the handful of anti-solar proponents have misrepresented the implications of current and planned developments on our aesthetic environment.
Rather than attack the absurd assertions and aborted statistics recently proclaimed by the anti-solar lobby, I offer herein just a few of the benefits the industry provides to our state.
The solar leases afforded to our farmers are minimizing development and sustaining agriculture by providing those farmers perpetual income for portions of their land (and typically not their prime agriculture). Quite literally, our agricultural community is now solar farming for clean energy.
Creating a distributed grid versus our conventional grid is a necessity, not an option. Upgrading our conventional grid requires infrastructure improvements the magnitude of which are impractical from both financial and aesthetic perspectives.
Renewable energy at a fixed price. Solar power provides energy reliability at a predetermined, fixed cost.
Solar has created jobs throughout Vermont. A dollar invested in solar creates two to three more jobs than a dollar invested in coal or oil.
Clean, renewable power. Solar power is currently the most likely solution to our global warming crisis.

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