LETTER: The Right Place for Solar Panels at Schools

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We as a city are moving forward in many ways. However, the use of our land is not one of them. There is a place for everything. But do we put solar panels on the ground using up valuable acreage in our four-square mile city? Apparently, we did so at the new Cunniff School, installing an array adjacent to the parking lot on the north side of the hill. 

Solar panels belong on roof tops and on parking lot canopies; using valuable ground space is not a favorable location.  

Are we about to repeat the same mistake at the Hosmer School? Yes, the designers are looking to place solar panels at ground level. When I asked the original architect for the elementary schools about the amount of greenspace after the construction of the new Hosmer School, I was told there would be no loss of field area or greenspace when the new school was finished. The placement of the solar array on the ground will impact the open space around the school. 

But again, back to the correct place for everything, the ground is not a place for solar panels. The ground is a place for bushes, trees, grass and playing fields. Please, do not place any solar panel at ground level around the Hosmer school. Find proper alternatives to make what you have work without impacting the green space around the building.

Leo Martin
683 Main St., Watertown

7 thoughts on “LETTER: The Right Place for Solar Panels at Schools

  1. Yes, I also thought that the Hosmer panels were supposed to be parking lot cover. They aren’t???? Dismayed to find this out.

  2. Our new schools are net zero energy schools, designed to produce as much energy as they use. The solar arrays for these buildings must be on-site and must be efficient. Unfortunately, the rooftops and the parking lots often do not offer enough space for the number of arrays needed to accomplish this goal. These arrays not only will make our world safer by powering our buildings with renewable energy, but they stabilize the cost to the taxpayers of Watertown. In our school budget, the second biggest expense, after staff salaries, is our utility cost. With these arrays, we have stabilized this expense. No one could have seen what is happening now with utility cost when the bid for these arrays was accepted. We are indeed lucky, because the playing fields for the children are intact. To create a future for our planet, the arrays must be positioned where they can be the most efficient and productive. After rooftops and parking lots, this may require using a small portion of the space surrounding the schools. Fortunately, these ground arrays are high enough that grass or ground cover will grow under them if they are not over pavement. It is a small sacrifice for giving our children the future they deserve.

    Jocelyn Tager

  3. I recommend you visit the school building committee website to familiarize yourself with the history of this project and reasoning for solar panels. We are achieving net zero for Hosmer which is an incredible achievement as we increase our townwide commitment to sustainability. In order to achieve this hefty goal we had to place panels at the parking lot area and elsewhere around the building. Note that the roof has already maximized its panel capacity. Carbon Neutrality is the future of green building and I am personally thrilled that Watertown is at the forefront – committed to the health of our environment and future of our children.

    • Kelly, I totally understand the value of the net zero goal and have been following the planning and development of our schools. I have been involved both professionally and civically with protecting our environment. We just have different approach as how to make things better.

  4. Solar arrays are an important part of our collective effort to build net-zero schools that support sustainability. The first location for these arrays is on top of the school buildings, followed by arrays that cover parking spaces, which not only provide solar energy but also protect cars and their passengers during inclement weather. At both the Hosmer and Cunniff most of the arrays fall into these two categories. Beyond that, a few additional arrays are needed to reach net-zero. These are being placed in areas that minimize any distraction from other space uses while still generating the needed energy. Watertown is a leader in this effort to build sustainable communities. I encourage everyone to attend meetings of the School Building Committee to learn more about this work that will benefit the students of Watertown as well as the entire community.

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