301 Moved Permanently

301 Moved Permanently


Working for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, I spent a lot of time reading reports from the score or so of town and city councils in the central Massachusetts region served by the newspaper. Over time, characters emerged, dramas played out, and issues came and went. Or, they came and stuck around for a while.

Councils struck me as extremely practical and were largely devoid of party politics - petty politics are another matter. On the whole, though, the more local the representation, the less ideology plays in the discussion. Looming over everything is a finite budget and seemingly endless things that need money.

When solar projects came before the councils, there was very little hint in the discussions of the planet-soothing moral rectitude of solar power. Mostly, the council members talked about cost and fielded concerns from abutters of proposed project sites who did not want to have their pastoral views spoiled by a solar farm.

When solar came up, the issue often was continued to another meeting or handed over to an appropriate subcommittee for more study and discussion. One of the developers I spoke to for the article on municipal solar projects featured on page 1 told me, sort of wistfully, that he had expected the council to approve the project in one meeting. The developer has extensive experience in public works, so his overly optimistic outlook was not due to naïveté. Rather, the solar project that was up before the city council seemed like a perfect opportunity for the community to save money on electricity that it seemed to sell itself. And the city did end up with an enviable 2.7 MW solar plant.

The problem is that the perfect solar opportunity is sandwiched on the agenda between a liquor license and the new chemistry lab for the high school. Developers cannot breeze into town like somebody selling a marching band or a monorail. The successful municipal developer is the one who has made the investment in time and talent to appreciate the community’s needs and - perhaps even more importantly - its processes.

The developer I spoke to said a key component of turning a municipal opportunity into a successful partnership is to have a champion supporting the project on the inside. At the municipal level, solar does not sell itself. An out-of-town solar developer with no contacts is unlikely to sell it either. S














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