Lovell’s old Town Hall was packed, standing room only. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived, but energy permeated the room. If any present supported the proposed location of 170,000 solar panels in rural Lovell, Maine, by Walden Renewables LLC, they were silent. Five people representing the company were the only ones to utter anything positive, but then they were paid to do that. No one spoke in favor.

No one spoke against solar energy either. Rather, they objected to where Walden Renewables wanted to put row after row of their big, ugly, black panels. In the 100 square miles of Lovell, the company chose a venue that would ruin one of the nicest mountain views in our picturesque town. One hundred eighty acres of carbon-consuming trees would be clear-cut and replaced with 170,000 solar panels, ostensibly to mitigate climate change. It would also mar the vista along Christian Hill Road where I happen to live.

It was gratifying to hear how many people describe how beautiful the views are from Christian Hill — how when traveling north or south through Lovell, they choose to drive our road instead of Route 5, the main north/south thoroughfare through town. I

t’s a slower, less-direct path but more scenic and relaxing. That path would also would take you over Hatch’s Hill, which is part of the old “‘Scoggin Trail,” an ancient north/south path used for centuries by the Pequawket Indians to go from the Saco River Valley to the Androscoggin River Valley. The views from Hatch’s Hill have not been tended and are being gradually obscured by vegetative growth.

Looking at 180 acres of hillside covered by 170,000 solar panels would render the viewer an entirely different feeling than what it would replace — hillsides of forest that change with the seasons and with the time of day. Walden Renewables tries hard to balance that with hollow verbiage about forestalling global warming and providing clean energy, but it doesn’t wash.

Aside from the visual ugliness there are other issues. An acquaintance recently sent this along:

The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels. To make pure enough silicon requires processing it with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride, which also are highly toxic. Silicon dust is a hazard to the workers, and the panels cannot be recycled.

Posting the above paragraph in a web search produced several links. Typical was a link called: “Debunking the debunkers/Andrew Tobias” in which Tobias contended that some of the article from which the paragraph came contained errors. The errors he cited, however, were minor, and he was forced to let most of the article’s claims stand on their own merit.

All 170,000 solar panels Walden Renewables would erect here would be made in China, America’s biggest enemy. Although Walden promises to fund the decommissioning of their panels after they’re obsolete in 20-30 years, what happens of they go bankrupt in the meantime? Would the landowners who leased their land to Walden be stuck with them? Would the Town of Lovell be? Would China take them back? Fat chance. According to an article in Discover Magazine: “It often costs companies more to recycle a solar panel than to produce a solar panel.”

Particularly grating on me is that I’m involuntarily paying for the solar panels that Walden would install to destroy my view. The solar industry is heavily subsidized by state and federal tax credits, tax exemptions, sales tax exemptions, rebates and grants. Do you pay taxes? Then your money goes into these things whether you like it or not. If it didn’t, Walden Renewables wouldn’t exist. Without taxpayer subsidies, solar arrays like this wouldn’t be viable business ventures.

People testifying at the Lovell Planning Board meeting overwhelmingly said they were blindsided by this project. Many, including me, were angry about that. When a moratorium was called for to give citizens more time to consider the 600-page application however, the board voted 3-2 against recommending the moratorium — not on its merits, but because the board lacks legal counsel at this time. Citizens in opposition to the siting of the solar project are afraid the planning board will vote to accept the 600-page application and thereby commit itself to a specific timetable for acting on it.

Lovell citizens felt blindsided by this huge, Walden Renewables application and declared they need much more time to consider it. Commensurately, Lovell’s Planning Board seemed taken aback by the vociferous citizen reaction.

Tom McLaughlin lives in Lovell and South Portland, Maine.

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(3) comments

SaveLovell

https://youtu.be/TTkn4ASKvS4

Maine's forest are a natural infrastructure to combat climate change. The above link are 'views' from my home on/near Christian Hill. It is wrong to clear cut forests and displace wildlife and say that you care about the environment. Build solar on land that man has already defaced.

Scott Shallcross

Boy, I wish Tom was as impassioned about our democracy as he supported Trump perpetuating the Big Lie leading up to the insurrection. And I wish Tom had been as concerned with the heath of his countryman during this deadly pandemic. Remember when he proudly announced that he does not wear a mask because he is a "conservative'. (Nothing like standing by your freedom to infect others!) And I wish Tom was interested in whether the planet will be habitable for future generations. But, as he has stated in his past columns, he does not believe in man made climate change. (kind of like saying one does not believe in rain at this point.) However, we now know what he deeply believes in: his view.

MEPD Ret

As always, we can count on you to perpetuate your long-standing feud with Tom. Never ceasing to find at least one ridiculous non-sequitur point to pounce on.

Meanwhile, you completely overlook the larger issues at stake: Small towns being taken advantage of by large, outside, corporate interests, that could care less about the things that make this part of the Country special.

There are plenty of cleared properties in far more populated areas of the State that are perfectly suited for this "green energy" project. THEY JUST COST MORE. HAVE MORE HOOPS TO JUMP THROUGH AND FAR MORE LAWYERS TO DEAL WITH.

But then again, maybe you don't care about the complete destruction of our environment by outside corporate interests as they steamroll over vulnerable, small, defenseless, ill-equipped, under-represented villages.

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