By Andrew Cole Yanders
Photo by ~ Jorg Breuning
There is undoubtedly an unpleasant knee-jerk reaction whenever you hear someone criticize a NGO whose sole purpose is to provide humanitarian assistance to people in most need. We all admire their work and generally feel better about living in a community who supports them and their activities. So when the 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. The Chimes is an admirable organization whose commitment to cleaner, renewable energy should be above repute. 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 if they were installed. 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, pollutant remediation and stormwater mitigation, with a clear-cut lawn that exacerbates stormwater runoff. Removing trees and other plants from the area will only intensify the stormwater runoff from the site and overwhelm existing measures to deal with the stormwater 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 for a suitable location for their panels. Most of the homes in Baltimore’s oldest suburban neighborhood are not a suitable location for solar panels, but any buildings in the neighborhood with a flat roof are an ideal location. Located very nearby on Thornbury Road is such a building. The building on Thornbury Road is an ideal location to install a solar living roof. The combination of high-efficiency solar panels with an extensive green roof enables The Chimes to produce clean, renewable energy as well as help alleviate the stormwater runoff problem affecting residents lower down on the hill.