Wausau going big on solar energy should excite those who love nature

Upon attending a recent meeting, I discovered that the city’s proposed solar garden on the new water treatment plant grounds is unpopular with some folks who live nearby. In fact many of the good people who live near Wausau’s first step into the clean, green energy realm want as small and as invisible an array as possible. They love the woods around their homes and want to protect the view. These nature lovers are offended by the intrusion of what they see as an ugly, unwanted technology. As a homeowner myself, there was something in their desire to preserve “hearth and home” that at first struck an empathetic chord. And yet many nature lovers would be proud and excited at the prospect of having a solar farm across the road, my wife and I among them.

Several years ago, we invested in solar panels for our home, and now charge our cars with the clean electricity they harvest from sunlight. Along with the usual lights and appliances inside our home, we also mow our lawn with a rechargeable electric lawnmower, all also powered by sunshine. While not perfect, it works delightfully well. Neither of us miss those expensive visits to the gas station at all.  Renewable energy to us is a natural, exciting and clean replacement for the dirty fossil fuels we grew up with.

Clearly, we and the folks offended by solar gardens are making different choices about the same thing. Here’s what’s behind ours:

  • That serious pollution accompanies fossil fuel energy is unassailable fact. Pollution comes not just in their use, but also from the regular pipeline spills, that also occur in well development, transportation and storage. This pollution is dangerous to life. Period. For our well being, that of our children and grandchildren, and the many other creatures we share this planet with, we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground.
  • Fossil fuels are expensive and Wisconsin has none. So the $14 to $15 billion that we send to large fossil fuel corporations outside our borders each year is money leaving our state for good. We do have a solar resource, though, and wind as well. Let’s keep our money at home where it can help our local and state economies. Let’s go renewable!
  • For those who take our changing climate seriously and who are concerned about the world our children and theirs will inherit from us, the transition to solar and wind energy is a Godsend. Solar farms and wind turbines look especially sweet to us when we hug our kids and grandkids.

Truth is, none of us has much at all to say about what happens to the property next door or across the street. Our rights end at our property lines. Not crazy about loud neighbors and dogs that bark all night long? A solar garden across the road will be one of the quietest neighbors ever. Planting a prairie with plenty of milkweed between the panels creates a great habitat for pollinators like monarch butterflies and rusty patched bumblebees.

For reasons like these, we loudly applaud Wausau for stepping forward on renewable energy. We look forward to a well done, aesthetically pleasing, large solar garden every nature lover can enjoy – perhaps with native plants and a fringe of trees to protect the view for those neighbors who disagree.