Letter: Solar plan at middle school isn’t a wise one

April 13, 2023

Town Meeting Article 21 is a well-intended but poorly structured measure to increase the Town’s solar generation capacity by building a 1,500 kilowatt set of canopy and roof-mounted panels at the new middle school without consideration to optimal siting or cost. It’s well-intended to build more solar – and we should. But the canopy-mounted system is costly, at $3.50 per watt compared to $1.50 per watt for ground-based systems. It is unsightly too, cluttering the middle school with these objects everywhere.

The Town already has solar projects at the W.R. Grace Superfund site and at the landfill. An expansion at the landfill might qualify for an additional 10% credit from the Inflation Reduction Act’s brownfield incentives. Other sites within Concord could be the Starmet Superfund site or the water treatment plant.

We should take a holistic view to power generation instead of artificially limiting siting to the middle school, considering electrons are the same no matter where they come from. Ditto for carbon emissions. We should also consider development sites outside of town and obtain competitive offers from developers. These alternatives could have useful attributes by not overwhelming the Concord Municipal Light Plant grid with more power than it can handle during peak solar production hours.

When taxpayers are already hard-pressed with middle school cost overruns we should be looking for ways to spend money wisely. Thus I recommend we save millions of dollars by recommending we send this article back and restructure our approach to new generation with a focus on economical ground-based solutions.

Dinos Gonatas

Old Marlboro Road