To the Editor: Can't ignore the big picture of climate change The proposed solar ordinance before the City Council fails to address the issue of climate change and how it is impacting our city and state. Climate change is real and happening faster than
To the Editor:
Can’t ignore the big picture of climate change
The proposed solar ordinance before the City Council fails to address the issue of climate change and how it is impacting our city and state. Climate change is real and happening faster than earlier predicted. Currently we average 10 days of temperatures at or above 90º and that is expected to go to 44 days by the end of the century. RI’s average temperature has risen by 3ºF compared to the national 1.5ºF. As the air warms it can hold more water vapor increasing humidity for a stronger heating effect. This water vapor also contributes to stronger and more persistent heavy downpours flooding low lying sections of the city and many roads become impassable. Lastly since 2000 sea levels have risen 1” every 5 to 6 years for a total of 10”. If our next hurricane is a major storm with these added inches of sea levels along with storm surges area of the city will flood. Warwick Neck can even be cut off from the mainland eliminating public service and emergency vehicle support. All these are real impacts to the city, its citizen and economy. The ordinance must address the financial and social impacts climate change is now known to bring to Warwick.
Smart solar is part of the solution
Reduction of our fossil fuel uses, and commensurate CO2 emissions is one first step in the answer. Solar installations go a long way toward that goal. The city’s greatest solar potential is in its industrial and commercial areas. Large flat roofs provide efficient locations for solar arrays. Acres of paved parking lots at the Malls and along Rt. 2 provide wide open spaces for solar canopies. These roof-top arrays and solar canopies can offset energy use for local businesses and even power EV (electric vehicle) charging stations for employees and customers. We would have lower CO2 emissions from our own buildings and vehicle emissions. How many of the city’s cars are EV and could be charged for free or at low costs? Government buildings, schools, and hospitals present similar possibilities. Residential roof-top panels and solar carports are options, too; although they are small scale and can be limited by building size, shape, and orientation to the sun.
Cutting down forests and destroying our urban tree canopy
Ground mounted commercial scale solar development in residential and open space is a very different matter. It is a land intensive use that could lead to the clear cutting of significant portions of Warwick’s remaining forested land. In fact, two of the first solar projects anticipated for approval under the proposed ordinance would be just this kind of project, The Little Rhody Beagle Club, and the YMCA. Under the proposed ordinance, commercial solar development is permitted in Warwick's residential and open space areas via an obscure footnote in the Zoning Use Table.
Warwick's trees are critical to staving off the impacts of climate change. Every tree we eliminate is one less cooling area for the citizens and the city. Trees reduce pollutants from our use of fossil fuels. They cool our streets and open areas. If planned properly, these treed areas can become bio retention/rain retention areas capturing runoff from these large, paved parking areas lowering the flooding impacts on local streets and the city’s sewer treatment facility. They mitigate the heat island effects in areas of the city where the average temperatures are higher and last longer than other sectors of the city. These areas are typically poorly treed and in poorer sections of Warwick or the state
Change the ordinance
Solar is a critical, viable, and effective tool to offset the impacts of increasing CO2 emissions and their impacts on climate change. But we need proper solar development – smartly planned and implemented. Let’s do this intelligently. Pick the low hanging fruit first, like the industrial, commercial sectors noted above with solar canopies in large parking areas. Continue to protect the natural landscape of Warwick that is equally important to the fight against climate change.
If you support these concepts, please contact your Warwick City Councilperson with your questions on this ordinance and ask for a response in at least 4 days prior to the August 16th hearing for the Solar Ordinance that, as drafted, can change the face of the city for decades to come.
Paul A. Beaudette