Without question, we Lincolnites are dedicated conservationists. Almost 35 percent of the town’s land is protected, giving us five square miles of undeveloped natural habitats for wildlife and plant life, fresh air, clean streams, and long stretches of space to walk and reflect.
It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that we also care about sustainability and the environment. In a recent Green Energy Committee survey, 90 percent of respondents indicated an interest in rooftop solar out of concern for climate change; 65 percent were concerned about the global politics of fossil fuels.
There is a direct connection between climate change and energy consumption. In Massachusetts, state law requires a minimum of 12 percent of its electricity be supplied from renewable sources in 2017, with those minimums increasing at just 1 percent each year. This means that the remainder—up to 88 percent—comes from dirtier or more dangerous sources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 63 percent of Massachusetts electricity came from burning natural gas, petroleum, and coal in 2016.
Fortunately, Lincoln has alternatives. Many volunteers have worked tirelessly over the past several years to explore supplying a portion of the municipal electricity with locally sourced clean energy. A Selectman-appointed Solar PV Working Group developed a Solar Blueprint, a detailed analysis of 25 municipally owned sites for potential solar arrays. These sites included school buildings and parking lots, public buildings, Codman Farm, and the capped landfill at the transfer station, automatically eliminating options that were located on environmentally sensitive lands, in historic districts, or with too much shade.
Two sites were ultimately selected for near-term solar installations that have the potential to generate up to 50 percent of the municipal electricity supply: a 45kW array on the Public Safety Building along Lincoln Road, and a 600-1,000kW array on the landfill at the transfer station.
Landfills have been natural first choices to host solar arrays in communities throughout the United States. Capping a landfill involves layering over a contaminated trash heap with a plastic-like drainage material, then clay and gravel, topped off with a vegetative layer to prevent soil erosion. In June 2016, Lincoln published a study on the environmental impact of using Lincoln’s capped landfill for a solar array. The study determined that the site provides low-quality habitat for wildlife and native plants.
To install solar PV at the landfill, Lincoln must identify and designate an equivalent amount of non-conservation protected land into conservation protection. The town’s proposed acquisition of An and Lorraine Wang’s property on Bedford Road provides an excellent opportunity for a win-win: using poor-quality land from a capped landfill to host solar electricity generation, and acquiring equivalent or better-quality land to contribute to Lincoln’s current Article 97-protected stock of conservation land. After a thorough review, the Conservation Commission unanimously voted in December to support the project and the removal of the capped landfill property from Article 97.
The proposed landfill solar PV generation system exemplifies Lincoln’s active engagement in and support for environmental conservation and stewardship projects. The landfill solar PV project has benefited from well-developed research, thoughtful consideration, and community engagement process. By continuing to move in the direction of clean, local, and renewable energy supplies, we will leave a more sustainable environment in Lincoln for future generations to come.
We encourage you to vote “yes” on Article 36 at Town Meeting on March 25.
The Lincoln Solar PV Working Group
(Renel Fredriksen, Board of Selectmen; Tom Gumbart, Jim Henderson, and Peter von Mertens, Conservation Commission; Tim Higgins, Town Administrator; John Snell, Green Energy Committee; and Gary Taylor, Planning Board)
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