Misguided Solar Ban

A stunningly wrong direction

All but lost amid the discussion of new setbacks and coverage rules for construction in Sag Harbor was a proposal to ban rooftop solar energy systems in nearly the entire village. At a time when climate change is dominating headlines and scientists think the polar ice caps are going to break up sooner rather than later, officials in Sag Harbor are heading in a stunningly wrong direction.

Following a prolonged moratorium on most major construction, Sag Harbor Village is getting set to adopt new regulations governing house sizes with an eye toward preserving beloved streetscapes. So far, so good. But one aspect of the plan is to codify a practice of the architectural review board not to allow solar panels and other visible alternative energy installations in the historic district. Unfortunately, the district encompasses a large portion of the village — notably including the commercial center — from Mashashimuet Park out to Long Wharf and from Havens Beach to the Redwood Causeway. A property owner could appeal a no vote by heading to court in the hope of going solar, but, in reality, few would take it that far. 

Even though New York’s power grid is thought to be somewhat less reliant on the fossil fuels implicated in global warming, alternative energy strategies for electricity and heating are among the steps that Americans must take if we are to head off the most damaging effects of climate change. With predictions of massive sea level rise by the end of the century, it is almost inconceivable that a coastal community like Sag Harbor would keep its collective head in the sand.

Like wind, solar resources must be part of an effort to slow the emissions that are causing the earth to warm. Yes, aesthetic concerns about the village must be taken into consideration, but they cannot be the end of the discussion.