Wednesday, November 24, 2021

WALDEN RENEWABLES SNEAKS INTO LOVELL



Flyer going around town

Solar energy is disturbing the peace here on Christian Hill in Lovell, Maine. Residents are angry because they didn’t know anything about a huge, multi-million-dollar, 171 acre, solar-panel project that will be visible from our hill. What really ticks them off is that, by the time they found out about it, it was already too late to do anything about it. Locals have been calling me and knocking on my door wanting to know what to do. According to what I have been able to learn so far, not much, because Lovell doesn’t have an ordinance to regulate these things and I suspect the solar company knew that.



I'll be seeing solar panels just to the left of the birdhouse

I knew nothing either until about two weeks ago. Even though the site abuts my property, I was never notified. To say that annoys me is understatement. A friend and I purchased 30 acres of overgrown former apple orchard enclosed by stone walls on Christian Hill over forty years ago. The land slopes down from the road, which is a big disadvantage in every way but one: there’s a beautiful view westward toward the White Mountain National Forest in neighboring New Hampshire. 



From my back porch
Solar panels would replace pines & hardwoods on the bottom


After splitting the thirty acres down the middle, my wife and I built a home on our half and moved into it in 1988. For the next several years, I personally reopened the view by cutting down enough trees for eight cords of wood every summer. I split it by hand and burned it to keep us warm each winter until I had cleared my half of the overgrown apple orchard.


Solar Panels would be under the cloud in the center

I had stabilized the disturbed soil around our new house with a conservation mix but our gravel driveway remained a challenge. Thunderstorms opened gullies every summer until we figured out where to install ditches and culverts. Then I hired an excavator to remove the stumps left in the former orchard and stabilized the disturbed soil with more conservation mix. I get it bush-hogged each year now to maintain the field and preserve our vista. It’s been a lot of work and expense, but the scenery always made it worthwhile.



My granddaughters Solar panels would dominate the view to the left of the birch tree


Lovell’s proposed solar project, however, will ruin that view. If it goes through as proposed, about half our panorama will be of hundreds black solar panels. My forty years of hard work has increased the value of our property, but whatever it’s worth will be considerably diminished if our view is spoiled by acre after acre of ugly black solar panels.



The solar company that would destroy my vista calls itself “Walden Renewables,” probably to conjure bucolic images a la Henry David Thoreau. However, row after parallel row of fifteen-foot-high, black solar solar panels is anything but bucolic. The 600-page Walden Renewables application to the Town of Lovell suggests we visualize sheep grazing beneath their black monstrosities and promises to decommission them after thirty years. Then, they say, the land would be open pasture. But if I live that long, I’ll be a hundred years old. Maybe I’ll get to watch them finally disassemble the monstrous things from a rocking chair on my back porch.


This view would be ruined

These huge collections of panels not only look ugly, but their transformers are noisy. It’s not a loud noise, but it can be annoying because it’s a “Pure Tone.” According to Michael Bahtiarian, a sound engineer at Acentech: “In my opinion, when a person is bothered by sound, it is more likely the presence of a Pure Tone that is bothering them rather than just the sound level. At the wrong frequencies, a Pure Tone can be a highly annoying sound” It’s about as loud as a vacuum cleaner.



Solar panels would replace the snow-covered pines

Lest you think this is just a local problem we’re dealing with, check out a November 2nd New York Times account: “Approximately 0.5 percent of U.S. land would need to be covered with solar panels to achieve the decarbonization goals proposed by the Biden administration in April, according to a study by the Energy Department." That’s 190,000 square miles, folks, and they’re not going to be built in cities. Expect to see them just about everywhere you look when you go for that nice, peaceful ride in the country.



Solar panels would replace the pines in the mist

Walden Renewables started quietly buying up leases in Lovell last February, but didn’t submit their application until October after all the summer people went home. Sneaky, huh? From what I can gather, the project will be visible from Kezar Lake where most of them own property. They have deeper pockets than us locals and have always helped enormously during previous fights against a nuclear-waste dump, a series of GWEN towers the Pentagon proposed to help generals communicate after a nuclear attack had killed the rest of us, and several other battles against huge projects by outsiders.



The area lit up would be all solar panels

Lovell’s Planning Board will consider the Walden Renewables application at its regular meeting Wednesday, December 1st. It will be at the Lovell Town Hall because they expect a lot of people.


 I hope they’re right.


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