LETTER: Solar project offers a strong environmental vision

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor:

For several weeks, there’s been a lot of engaging discourse from the community on the proposed solar panels that would be erected at the Fairfield Train Station which will provide almost all the electricity consumed by Tomlinson Middle School.

We appreciate the questions and issues put forth by individuals who live in close proximity of the station, and I believe this project offers a strong environmental vision for our town and makes a strong statement about our commitment to our earth. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that the Board of Selectman’s vote on these solar panels comes as world leaders descend in Paris for the Sustainable Innovation Forum, one of the most important environmental summits to help advance the global ‘green economy’ and address climate change which constitutes a major issue today and for future generations.

As stewards of our community and its long-term environmental health, we have a unique opportunity to be innovators and visionaries when it comes to integrating independent sources of energy to our town buildings. The solar panels would be built at the train station’s parking lot which resemble car ports or canopies, and provide Tomlinson Middle School with solar energy, and give the school predictable energy costs that are not subject to rapid increases like conventional sources of power.

Consider this calculation — the train station / Tomlinson system will produce 1.300 MWh per year. The carbon dioxide savings will be 0.7 x 1,300 = 910 tons per year (that’s 1,820,000 pounds!) or 27,300 tons over 30 years (the projected lifespan of the solar panels). There has been some concern about snow and ice relating to the panels, and falling on cars. However, the design takes into account that issue, and the ‘V’ design allows snow and ice to move to the center notch of the panels and gradually melt.

The solar project, which has been shepherded by our town’s Public Works department for two years, offers three-fold benefits to our town. First of all, it would save our town money — about $2 million in energy costs — without any investment from the Town. Municipalities like Fairfield have a responsibility to its citizens to find new ways to save money while adopting environmental methods to help the environment and reduce our carbon footprint.

Secondly, the system will be visible to thousands of individuals per day — from commuters to town residents, visitors and travelers on Amtrak’s Northeast corridors — to serve as a striking symbol of Fairfield’s clean energy leadership. The project is an opportunity for Fairfield to be the driver of our energy future, and greatly reduce gas emissions. Thirdly, using renewable energy, like solar, is better for our health, reducing emissions of harmful pollutants, and improving our air quality.

Many towns and cities throughout the country have recognized the transformative power and importance of solar, and it’s a proud moment when Fairfield harnesses this source of energy too. Homeowners in Farifield value green initiatives that help to minimize greenhouse gases and this action makes our town even more attractive.

I urge the Board of Selectman to support this vital project, and it is our hope that the Town will provide further opportunities to take advantage of the clean, cost-savings benefits of renewable sources of energy.

Alexis Harrison

RTM – District 3

FairPLAN, Chair

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