Thursday, April 28, 2011

NY Times Jumps On Solar Panel Eyesore Bandwagon

New Jersey papers like the Record and Star Ledger have been full of complaints about PSE&G's nearly $1 billion project to put solar panels on its power transmission poles in the largest distributed power generation project in the US. Each of the panels would generate 200 watts of power, and together the 200,000 panels would generate 40 megawatts of power. Now, the New York Times weighs in with its own piece about the project.

That's power that doesn't have to come from coal fired or gas burning power plants. It means that on high usage days, those coal and gas plants don't have to kick in to provide peak power. Instead, these panels are providing a steady stream of power into the grid on the days when power is most in demand.

Yet, all too many people are latching on to the fact that the panels are somehow ugly.

Sorry, but they are no more ugly than the transmission poles that deliver the power, and are far less ugly than the endless stream of particulates and emissions from power plants, or the unending stream of coal shipments by rail or barge to power plants.

It may be a harsh realization that these are new panels and installations, but they are going to settle into the background. In reality, this is little more than a rehash of longstanding NIMBY arguments that prevent an honest assessment of power generation and distribution in the US. In other words, these same people claim that they're all for solar power, except when it's in their own backyard so that it would be better if it was located somewhere else.

As for claims that they will somehow unduly influence real estate values, at a time when prices are steady or dropping (as in Fair Lawn where I live - and Bergen County generally), the installation of solar power isn't the driving factor but some homeowners may latch on to the belief that the solar power cells are driving prices down because they can't accept that the real estate market is soft.

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