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Trees-vs.-solar is a choice Long Island need not make

This massive solar farm, hard at work on

This massive solar farm, hard at work on April 4, 2015, sits along Edwards Avenue in Calverton. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The controversy over where to put solar power arrays on Long Island rages on. Now environmentalists and civic groups are arguing — with each other — about proposed sites in Mastic and Shoreham. The fight is over the wisdom of clearing trees to erect solar panels. One side says it’s a compromise needed to keep moving purposefully to the alternative energy future the region must embrace. The other says it’s a terrible and unnecessary environmental trade-off. All things being equal, we’d like to keep the trees — and have solar, too. But information is lacking to properly evaluate either argument.

Here’s what we know: The Long Island Power Authority has requested proposals for as much as 400 megawatts of green energy. And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has set a goal that half of the state’s power be generated by renewable sources by 2030. That’s all good. But what is Long Island’s capacity for solar arrays on large rooftops, brownfields, parking lots, vacant lots, shuttered businesses and other places that are not woods, farms or residential areas? No one knows. No comprehensive study has been done, which sadly is typical of planning on Long Island.

Most Long Islanders value fiercely our woodlands. And they support the transition to green energy. Let’s channel that support into gathering information as quickly as possible on where arrays can be put so we make good decisions, not into erecting arrays as quickly as possible with trade-offs we come to regret.

Let’s not make this a false choice of trees vs. solar power. Long Island wants and needs both. — The editorial board