Editorial: Taking on green energy rules
Green energy, leafy town, let’s make it work.
Green energy regulations should start with society’s need — no, the world’s need — for less voracious fossil fuel burning and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and then balance those larger goals with a residential community’s desire to maintain neighborhood aesthetics.
It’s a tough task. And there’s no boxed set of prewritten regulations to draw on. But Ridgefield may well be the ideal place to tackle the job.
Why? What makes Ridgefield such a good proving ground for green energy rules? Ridgefield has an active public environmental conscience in the form of organizations like RACE, the Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment. It has a long history of environmental activism, stretching from the creation of one of the area’s first recycling centers decades ago — remember the dump ball? — to last year’s wide public support for the adoption of a town ordinance against fracking and the reuse of materials that are by-products of fracking operations.
But Ridgefield is also a town highly conscious of its aesthetics. Ridgefielders love their town’s tree-lined Main Street, its Victorian mansions, the narrow roads winding through the woods. It’s a town with a fierce commitment to guarding what remains of its old New England look.
More recently, Ridgefield has learned how emotional and divisive the push and pull can become when residents’ instincts to guard neighborhood aesthetics come up against the modern-day realities of green energy production — specifically, ground-mounted solar arrays, but the same concerns could apply to some roof-top solar equipment and, certainly, to windmills.
Fortunately, Ridgefield is also a town with a Planning and Zoning Commission that’s not afraid to take on tough topics. This was shown when the commission decided last week to have its staff start working with the Western Connecticut Council of Governments to draw up some potential regulations. Good, go for it.
Another goal comes to mind that might be added to the green energy agenda. Couldn’t — shouldn’t? — homes be made much more energy efficient? One approach to this would be through aggressive building code regulations on things like insulation. Another, perhaps more difficult approach might be limits on the sizes of single-family homes — a “no more McMansions” rule.
Generating solar and wind energy is one way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and help fend off — or lessen and delay — the coming global warming debacle. Acting aggressively to reduce our society’s profligate energy waste is another difficult but necessary road to travel.