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Don't let junk science derail solar farm debate

Serafina Natale, of Holbrook, voices her concerns regarding

Serafina Natale, of Holbrook, voices her concerns regarding a solar farm in Holbrook at an informal community meeting on Thursday, June 4, 2015. As of July 2, the project is on hold. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

We can, and should, have a spirited discussion about where to site solar energy farms. We can, and should, consider all thoughtful concerns about where they are placed. But faulty assertions based on simple emotion or junk science have no place in this debate. Long Island's energy future and solar's role in it are too important to be derailed by specious fabrications.

The latest uproar is over the proposed placement of 5,000 solar panels on a wooded 4-acre parcel in Holbrook. As in previous controversies, there are some valid concerns. We can talk about the possible effect on property values. We can discuss aesthetics, though berms and vegetative buffers can blunt those worries. We can debate the wisdom of cutting down trees; solar panels do more to reduce carbon, but trees supply habitat for other species, prevent erosion and are just plain beautiful.

But we can't take seriously worries about toxic fumes or electromagnetic waves or noise. These issues have been put to rest.

A real issue is our lack of knowledge about the best places to put solar farms and how many megawatts they would produce. Let's study all the commercial rooftops, parking lots, landfills and brownfields that could host large arrays. Then we'll need building codes that cluster commercial rooftop equipment to maximize the space for panels. Still, we need to do more to wean our region off power produced by fossil fuels and build the alternative energy future we must embrace.

The Holbrook proposal is one of seven from solar-energy developer SunEdison; the other six are on landfills, a water pollution control plant and an airport. By all means, build those. And let's talk about Holbrook and others like it, with facts as our guide.