[Update: Cotuit's town councilor, Jessica Rapp-Grassetti succeeded in killing this proposal]
In Cotuit news .....
The local weekly, the Barnstable Patriot, carried two letters-to-the-editor this week expressing citizen alarm over moves by the town and the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative to build a photovoltaic solar energy array on 11 acres of scrub pine forest behind the western edge of Cotuit's Mosswood Cemetary.
The CVEC and the town's energy department have been working on a number of projects on public land, proposing and installing solar panels on municipal buildings, behind schools, and adjacent to various properties such as the senior center and elsewhere. According to the CVEC -- a regional consortium consisting of representatives from the Cape's towns and counties -- "In 2010 CVEC, with its project partner ConEdison Solutions in the role of Power Purchase Agreement provider, completed installations totaling approximately 750KW of photovoltaic power at 7 CVEC member sites across Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. This is enough clean, renewable electricity to power over 125 homes and offset .517 metric tons of CO²."
The Cotuit project came to the attention of the Cotuit-Santuit Civic Association at a recent meeting when the project was presented by the town's energy coordinator. This raised the recent alarm and hence the letters to the editor, marking the first time I had been made aware of the project although it had been publicly advertised since September 2011.
The CVEC website yields some information, such as this description of the project:
There are no photographs or simulations of what the hardware will look like installed, but I assume it will consist of rows of black cells mounted off of the ground on some form of pedestal with a collection point then wired out to the general grid. Here's an example of an installation:
The land lies out behind the Cotuit Kettleer's ball park, accessible by the dirt road segment of Old Post Road that runs west from Putnam Ave. and northwest towards the water department's Main Street water tower. It appears to abut the village's well field that provides drinking water.
I can't determine what the projected kilowatt output of the array would be, any technical or cost details, as the CVEC site is remarkably unfriendly to a layman seeking information.
According to the two letters, one by Cotuit-Santuit Civic Association Secretary Tom Burgess, the other by village resident Francis Parks, the objections to the project center around:
- Surprise. The project was only shared with the civic association six months after requests for proposals were issued.
- "Desecration": Mosswood is a cemetery and there is concern that the project would be inappropriate given the solemn purpose of the property and possibility of future expansion.
- Environmental: the village has a tradition of preserving open green-space, especially in that area, and Ms. Parks raises the issue of possible contamination of the village drinking water and impacts on wildlife.
The parcel is literally out-of-sight and hence out-of-mind. If the solar array was built today, a driver on Putnam Avenue wouldn't see it. A walker on the dirt road behind the property might catch a glimpse through the buffer of trees. The only way to be aware of it would be to fly over it.
A look at the aerial photograph of the project captures the scope and remoteness of the location. (click for a full-sized view).
My personal politics favor renewable energy. I support the Nantucket Wind Farm proposal and would, if I had the cash and confidence in my old roof, install solar panels myself. Placing solar arrays on public property is a noble idea, but aesthetically can be an eyesore. A recent drive on Route 100 in Vermont through the Mad River Valley revealed a few private solar arrays installed behind dentist office's and the like. They aren't exactly objects of beauty. but aesthetics shouldn't be issue for the Mosswood proposal given the backwoods location.Environmental disruption what it does to wildlife habitat, rainwater permeation, and contiguous green space would be on the top of my list of negatives.
The town needs to respect Mosswood more than it currently does. A large parking lot was recently installed out of the blue, and now two rows of cars and pickup trucks gleam through the trees along Putnam Ave. I'm suspicious this as a harbinger the town's department of public works regards Mosswood as its western "depot" and center of operations. I would not be surprised to one day see snowplows, mounds of sand, and heavy equipment begin to be parked there given the way things are proceeding.
The inadvertemt lack of respect and communication by the CVEC and town probably means this project will meet with opposition by the time it gets in front of the town council. I'm sure no ill-will was intended, nor was this planned on being a cloak-of-darkness project, but the lack of public relations and a lack of online details may damn this well-intentioned project.