Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Politics dictates quick solar action here

In the current issue of The Hillsdale News, I reported that Portland school district officials and local leaders don't feel a rush to install a large photo-voltaic array of solar panels in order to supply electricity to Rieke Elementary School.

The site that the school district officials and solar consultants have in mind is on the highly visible slope just above Bertha Court (see above rendering). But some folks wonder whether that’s the best site for the industrial-looking 200 foot-by-50 foot array.

They are saying, let’s slow down and consider other sites and possibly more attractive panels.

Earlier I had reported that the installation had to be completed before the end of the year because lucrative federal tax incentives expire then. But those conferring around the table at the school district office last Wednesday were certain the feds and Congress would extend the tax incentive program for wind and solar power. There would be time for careful siting deliberation.

The incentives have started a boom in alternative energy projects, which have zero carbon emissions in a world of warming hurt.

What politician in his or her right mind wouldn’t continue the tax incentive program?

Quite a few, starting with Congress and Bush administration energy officials, according to Thomas Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times. The government is stuck in the same short-term, quick-fix mind set demonstrated by presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton, writes Friedman.

Both candidates are advocating a federal gas tax vacation this summer, which will only contribute to the carbon spewing.

Enough with the Band-Aids already. As Friedman reminds us, we have a global problem on our hands.

In Hillsdale, intransigence in Washington, D.C. means forging ahead here. Like it or not, we need to move on the solar project under tight, politically dictated time constraints.

The result may not be pretty aesthetically, but by promising to provide 60 percent of Rieke’s energy without polluting the environment, this project has other, more important, attractions.

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