Friday, November 22, 2013


Who could be against solar energy? I mean, it's the original story. Green plants have been doing it since time immemorial. All life on Earth uses solar energy (or almost all).

Here we are on a nice little planet near a big, hot, raging furnace, so let's suck up some of that energy, directly, sunlight to electricity. Solar energy is clean. Getting cheaper. No noise. No smoke. No greenhouse gases. Bring it on!

What’s not to like? ? (We will ignore for the moment the environmental costs of manufacturing and installation.)

Uh oh. What's that going on in the big open field on the west side of the campus, across the highway and behind Facilities Management? That beautiful open space I often walked on my way to and from the campus? A glorious meadow has given way to a sea of pedestals. Photoelectric panels will be coming soon. Acres fenced off.

The meadowlarks are long gone. The monarchs are passing too. Now one more patch of green space is given over to technology. From a nature lover's point of view, one might as well have paved the field with asphalt.

I can't help but feel a twinge of sadness.

But I bite my lip and accept. One can't be for clean energy and wish it all in someone else's field. One can't enjoy a long hot shower every morning and ignore where the energy is coming from. If we want automobiles and airplanes and air conditioning and plastics, we are inevitably forced to choose among energy options, none of which is attractive.

And so my "one mile walk through the universe" now embraces another cosmic story. Nuclear fusion at the core of the Sun and long hot showers for a few thousand college students.