Solar Panel “Farm” Declined

Megan Hall, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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Last year, the Environmental Council here at UNE crafted a proposal concerning what is called the “Solar Farm,” a place in which members of the community and the University itself are proposed to benefit from the use of a greener energy source. The solar panels were to be placed outside the soon-to-be newly renovated exterior space surrounding UNE’s Harold Alfond Forum. Noah Perlut, a faculty member within UNE’s Environmental Studies Department proposed the idea to his classes, describing the “farm” as a communal space that could be purchased and used by the greater community outside UNE. The panels would hopefully pay for themselves, Perlut explained to his classes—simply because the amount that would be saved in alternate energy costs would outweigh the cost of the panels themselves. The plan was only destined to work if there were funds available, funds that would only become available if there was both authorial and popular support for the proposal.

Some, however, argued that the solar panels were to take up far too much space, and would not produce the financial and environmental effects the Council hoped. President Ripich “declined to pursue the solar farm,” as the Environmental Departments Sustainability Coordinator Alethea Cariddi stated. However, Cariddi also stated that Ripich did not desert the cause altogether, but instead noted its potential value to the campus and the greater community by making “a commitment to the Environmental Council co-chairs to consider future solar initiatives for new building projects.” Cariddi understands Ripich’s initial hesitation, as she notes how “renewable energy sources at the outset of a project is sometimes easier to implement than after a building exists,” and therefore the new Environmental Council’s co-chairs—Dr. Cory Theberg and Amanda Lean—have proposed that the panels instead be incorporated into at least one of the “several building projects…in the planning phases.” Of these buildings, the UNE Commons seems to be a favorable place for the panels, the Council stated in their letter to Dr. Ripich last month.

The Council continues to fight for their “Solar Farm,” as they persevere to alter and perfect their original initiative. As Cariddi claims, the Council is “hoping to meet with [Ripich]…to talk about potential solar installations as well as electric car charging stations.” The reason the Council continues to pursue their idea is not because of any pursuit within their own environmental conclusion, or to enhance their own eco-friendly lifestyles, but instead they have grounded their proposal in the “growing sustainability culture and concern of the UNE community.” The proposal only will be successful, however, if there is substantial popular support—it will be up to the UNE community and the greater state around us to decide whether the “Solar Farm” will be both economically and environmentally practical.

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