Change is coming to my old neighborhood. The largest solar power array in Wisconsin will go into the neighborhood where my parents settled for thirty years after we left the dairy farm of my childhood. We lived there while I attended High School. I feel the grief I'd feel if a housing development was planned for the area, or a factory farm. The solar array overwhelms far more of the countryside than those possibilities.
The developers forecast a lifespan of forty years for the array. We are assured that natural plantings will preserve the soil and deter run-off (which they probably will), that grazing may be a possibility (hope so, but doubt it), and that the land can be returned to agriculture after the solar array has fulfilled its purpose, which is to provide low-cost energy (a little bit of investigation will show you that it is not low cost), to Western Wisconsin and contribute to the economic growth of the area. The panels will stand as tall as full-grown corn. I’m not a fan of cornfields, but the solar panels will not follow the topography of the landscape nearly as organically as the corn now does. The thought of the visual intrusion on the countryside of big square photovoltaics leaves me cold. What affect will they have on wildlife such as amphibians, birds, and anything else? They are ugly; jarring in a bucolic setting. The same can be said for wind turbines. Neither of these forms of energy production are reliable or cost effective. Please watch this: The great Texas freeze
The look of the landscape will be drastically changed for a long time. It will be filled with mechanical panels, impregnated with chemicals, some of them dangerous, such as gallium arsenide (GaAs), not plants. Years ago, as an Art major at UWRF, I was required to take Great Ideas in Science with Virginia Akins*, in addition to regular science requirements, to fulfill a well-rounded liberal arts education. Ironically, although I wouldn’t have elected to take it, it turned out to be one of my favorite classes. I loved Dr. Akins as a teacher; she was funny and intelligent and intense. In her class we covered pollution of various sorts; one variety of which visual pollution, was most compelling to me. This solar array falls in that category.
Dostoyevsky wrote that the world would be saved by beauty. What effect will the sight of the solar array have on the people who live in the neighborhood? I recall the dismay expressed in an interview by a woman who’s neighborhood had become the site of a fracking operation. Her once peaceful area was now the scene of blasting with countless trucks hauling sand going by. No more peace and quiet for her. She breathed the same air, albeit a bit dustier; the water she drank was probably not sullied, but her life was diminished by what was going on around her. The lives of those living in the neighborhood, looking out on a solar array will be diminished aesthetically, probably chemically and dare I say spiritually.
The life span of photovoltaics is 20 years. There are risks that come with it: Will it be maintained? Will it be cleaned up; where will the scrap go? There in the land of the deplorables?