Guest editorial: Support for proposed Middlebury solar site

It’s the season of joy and light. And among the most heartening local developments this year has been the proposal for a greatly needed solar energy field off South Street Extension in Middlebury. 
Yet a small, vocal group of people warn us that we should see solar energy as dark and foreboding — if we can even actually see the carefully screened solar panels in the distance. These doomsayers claim that clean, green, locally produced energy might in fact destroy our local landscape. Maybe it’s better that we get our energy from “some other place,” such as fracked gas that releases dangerous methane pollution, or locate it in another part of town. 
I urge Middlebury townspeople and the selectboard to support this solar energy project initiated by Middlebury College. Already the town Planning Commission has supported the project, as does the Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County, of which I am a board member. 
We – Vermont, the U.S., indeed the entire planet — are facing a climate emergency. The latest U.N. report warns that we need to reduce our planetary greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in the next decade — or give up all hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. 
The proposed site in Middlebury is the best one available. Locations such as Exchange Street are constrained by wetlands and other land-use considerations (Exchange Street being the key locale for future economic and industrial development). Rooftops and parking lots are both too expensive and too small to provide sufficient power generation. Moreover, the proposed location can facilitate backup power to nearby Porter Hospital. 
I encourage my friends who oppose this site to see it as many of us do — as one removed from most neighborhoods, carefully screened to minimize any visual impacts, and one that will, in fact, be beautiful. Beautiful because it will show the commitment of the town and college to do what they can to fight climate change and responsibly reduce carbon pollution. 
We are well past the time where “Someone might be able to see solar panels” is an adequate reason to oppose a carefully sited project that will reduce our dependence on highly polluting fossil fuels. 
If we can’t support projects like this one, in short, we are just turning our backs on the best ways to help protect Vermont from the unstable weather and dangerous warming that threaten our natural beauty and way of life. 
Greg Dennis is a frequent columnist for the Addison Independent but submitted this as a letter or guest commentary. He is a long-time resident of Cornwall. 

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