Chimes solar plan needs better location

There is undoubtedly an unpleasant knee-jerk reaction whenever you hear someone criticize an organization whose sole purpose is to provide humanitarian assistance to people in most need. We generally feel better about living in a community that supports nonprofits and their activities. So when representatives of The Chimes, a Dixon Hill-located nonprofit, announced at a community association meeting their desire to install an array of ground-mounted solar panels on their property, the opposition to their plan may seem harsh and unwarranted ("Mount Washington residents criticize plan to build solar panels," Jan. 3). The Chimes is an admirable organization whose commitment to cleaner, renewable energy should be above reproach. Every intention in The Chimes' plan is correct, except for the location of the solar panels.

Residents were right to question the location of the panels and infer the detrimental effects they would have on the landscape. Installing a ground array of solar panels is completely counter-productive to the intended goal of good stewardship of the neighborhood. This type of system replaces a functioning ecosystem, which provides the life-essential mechanisms of oxygen production, pollution remediation and storm water mitigation, with a clear-cut lawn that exacerbates storm water runoff. Removing trees and other plants from the area will only intensify the runoff from the site and overwhelm existing measures to deal with the problem. Any storm-damaged trees that must be taken down should be immediately replaced.

If the ground is not a suitable location for the panels, then The Chimes should look to the roof tops. Most of the homes in Baltimore's oldest suburban neighborhood are not a suitable location for solar panels, but any building in the neighborhood with a flat roof would serve better. Located very nearby on Thornbury Road is such a building, and it would be an ideal location to install a solar living roof. The combination of high-efficiency solar panels with an extensive green roof would enable The Chimes to produce clean, renewable energy as well as help alleviate the storm water runoff problem affecting residents lower down on the hill.

Andrew Cole Yanders, Bel Air

The writer is a green roof designer for Green Roof Technology.

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