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Watertown to require solar panels on new commercial buildings

WBUR reports a new zoning ordinance requires developers to put solar panels on new buildings and buildings undergoing extensive renovations.

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chopping down trees so as to not block future solar panels to be installed at a later date?

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Owners of commercial property generally don't allow trees to overshadow their roofs; it causes maintenance expenses. New commercial construction just about always removes all the trees from the lot.

Admit it, you just hate the future.

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I hate self-important people telling me what the future is and to get on board or else.

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Smugarse "skeptics" who don't know the first thing about the trouble we are facing, and hate their kids so much that they want them to die.

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Why do you love your theoretical economic prospects and the words of conmen more than you love your own children?

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I know you mean to say one thing when you write that, but for all the world it looks to me like you're saying exactly the opposite.

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You just wrong about the tree thing. I am sure there are plenty of faux libertarian arguments left for you.

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There are plenty of commercial properties in Watertown and other older areas where the sun barely if ever shines on the roof -- its in the shadow cast by a neighboring building -- they don't have a shadow bank in Watertown

These useless idiots need to look at Paris -- and yes it is Burning

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There are plenty of commercial properties in Watertown ... where the sun barely if ever shines on the roof

Satellite View in Google Maps shows just about all of the roofs in Watertown in full sunlight. Check it out.

What has Paris got to do with Watertown?

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What has Paris got to do with Watertown?

Watertown is famously the Paris of Massachusetts.

(Although strangely, Paris is the New Bedford of France. No one is quite sure why.)

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the biggest protests in Paris this weekend were about global warming demanding more action.

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is taking action. So what has Paris got to do with it?

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You should read more non Trump-tweet news. The Paris protests were about gas prices, not what you & Trump said.

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Actually the protests were about a lot of things.
https://www.city-journal.org/police-handling-of-paris-riots

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There is not one word in it about Global Warming, climate change, or the environment. The Paris protests have zero relevance to Watertown.

Thanks for wasting my time.

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It would be better for energy efficiency to mandate better insulation and white roofs. Solar isn't great in the northeastern US unless the building is in the correct orientation and the roof is large enough for the array to generate a economical amount of energy. Otherwise it is spending a lot of money and resources to put up virtue signaling equipment which probably hurts the environment more than it helped before ceasing to function.

Is Watertown even set up properly to work with microgrids? The city could be creating headaches for the utility company if it isn't and every new building starts pushing energy in the grid which can't handle it.

It would make sense to put solar panels over large parking lots, garages, big box retailers, etc that already have issues with the heat island effect. Trying to put them on every little building not so much.

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White roofs? For what -- to aid in snow melting? Are you newly moved here from Florida?

"and the roof is large enough for the array to generate a economical amount of energy" -- There is no uneconomical size of PV installation. Even one panel, even in MA, makes a difference. I have 5.5 kW of PV on my roof, and pay essentially zero for electricity. My house is not huge.

"virtue signaling equipment which probably hurts the environment more than it helped before ceasing to function." How, exactly does PV solar hurt the environment? Especially how does it do so more than burning fossil fuels? Granted, panels cease to function after some time. They're generally guaranteed for 20 years -- longer than most roofs, even white ones.

Your concerns about the welfare of the electric companies are heartwarming, but you need to explain about why their problems are more important than global warming, beyond tossing off buzzwords like "microgrid" to sound informed.

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Adding a white heat reflective roof and continuous thermal insulation at the exterior envelope conserves far more energy than a solar array ever will at fraction of the cost in most cases. Those panels have a limited life and often don't recoup their embodied energy.

Atelier Ten

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Adding a white heat reflective roof and continuous thermal insulation at the exterior envelope conserves far more energy than a solar array ever will at fraction of the cost in most cases.

Show us. My roof has prevented the emission of TONS of CO2. Literally tons, like several tons per year. This is New England, where we spend more on heating than on A/C. Insulation helps with both things, but a white roof only affects the thing we spend less on.

Are you associated with the "environmental design firm" Atelier Ten, which has no office in MA or northern NE? Do they know you're putting this stuff out on the Web?

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Connecticut isn't part of New England?

https://www.atelierten.com/offices/new-haven/

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I said "northern New England," and no, Conn. isn't part of it.

From the anon's white-roof fixation, I bet he's not familiar with any part of NE.

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THANK YOU.

That said I do agree with OP that while they're doing this they should mandate insulation improvements too. And hell, maybe this should apply to residential developments over a certain size (once they're big boxes that look like commercial anyway) Just push it through as a package.

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California officially became the first state in the nation on Wednesday, Dec. 5 to require homes built in 2020 and later be solar powered.

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but you need to explain ...

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White roofs reflect heat and reduce the heat island effect. It is more efficient to use less energy with passive insulation and efficiency than to try and generate it with inefficient solar arrays. The payback and overall environmental benefit is better with passive conservation measures. They aren't sexy or high tech. But they are more effective in the long run.

Solar panels (PV) are terrible for the environment because of the materials necessary for their manufacture and limited lifespan. They are typically not recycled and become hazardous waste. Same issue with battery storage. Solar thermal makes much more sense than PV in longevity. But unless you have a large system it can't be used to generate electricity efficiently through convection of hot air through venturi turbines. Which in itself creates problems by creating artificial heat islands.

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Solar panels (PV) are terrible for the environment because of the materials necessary for their manufacture and limited lifespan.

So you say. I think you're wrong. The claims of environmental harm can be traced right back to the fossil-fuel industry. Here is the Union of Concerned Scientists on the subject:

Thus, PV manufactures must follow U.S. laws to ensure that workers are not harmed by exposure to these chemicals and that manufacturing waste products are disposed of properly.

Thin-film PV cells contain a number of more toxic materials than those used in traditional silicon photovoltaic cells,... If not handled and disposed of properly, these materials could pose serious environmental or public health threats. However, manufacturers have a strong financial incentive to ensure that these highly valuable and often rare materials are recycled rather than thrown away.

I do not understand your concern about the lifespan of PV panels. As I said, they're guaranteed for 20 years, and typically last longer than that. You claim they are not recycled at the end of their life, but offer no evidence for that claim.

Flat roofs in New England are at risk from heavy snow loads, which can cause collapse. Dark roofing material helps alleviate that risk by promoting melting. Sloped roofs over inadequately insulated attics generate ice dams, which can cause structural damage. Again, dark roofs help alleviate that. Where are you writing from, anyway?

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Snow is free insulation in the winter. New construction doesn't have an issue with snow loads.

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Even one panel, even in MA, makes a difference. I have 5.5 kW of PV on my roof, and pay essentially zero for electricity. My house is not huge.

Unfortunately, du to the Byzantine billing structure -- you have no Idea how much your electricity costs -- but I guarantee that I'm paying part of your cost as are your non solar neighbors.

Everyone who pays an electricity bill in MA is charged a tax to cover subsidies for solar, wind, etc.

As RR said about 40 years ago:

If it moves tax it; if it keeps moving regulate it -- if it stops moving subsidize it

your solar array is in the stops moving subsidize it category

PS: Just ask yourself where your electricity comes from when its dark!

PPS: for extra credit where does your electricity come from when its dark and there is no wind

PPPS: if you answer from batteries to either of the above you get an F for knowledge of the energy system

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Or maybe the nuclear industry? Those are the alternatives. If you didn't notice, it is now cheaper for a utility to build and operate wind and solar than it is to continue operating an existing fossil-fueled generating station.

When it's dark, the utility gives me back some of the energy my roof fed into their system when the sun was out. Yes, I'm treating the grid like a big battery. I know it isn't one, but it may come to that. Generating electricity from fossil fuels is too expensive to continue, and utilities will find answers to the variable nature of renewable sources.

Except for when my roof is snow-covered for a week, I provide more than I use. The "subsidy" you think I get is in maintaining the grid, and some of the energy I produce but don't use offsets my part of that.

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Wind and solar are a lot more expensive than fossil fuels. The rare earth metals in solar panels and wind turbines aren't terribly green or sustainable either.

If you want clean carbon free energy copy the French and build nuclear. Thorium salt reactors FTW!

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This is from last year: Clean Energy Is About to Become Cheaper Than Coal:

The inflection point has already been reached in the West, and by 2021 solar will be cheaper than coal in China.

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Forbes:

Onshore wind power and solar – without subsidies – are now the cheapest source of new bulk power in every major economy in the world apart from Japan, a new report says.
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YOU DO

Sorry, but the delusional Exxon economist of the week publishing in Pravda is no basis for improving the grid.

When the Republicans in your own state know vastly more than you do, its time to put down the kool-aid and start learning REAL science.

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Ah, if only it were that easy! I think that you already know it but would rather not mention it; like just about every homeowner with solar panel on their roof in the North East, the grid (mostly fossil fuel) still provides some 80% of the electricity that you use on an annual basis.

On a bright sunny day like today, around midday, your PV system will likely generate the full 5.5 kw and dump all the redundant energy into the grid while spinning your electrical meter backward. This works out alright as long as a negligible number of people are doing the same thing. Once PV becomes widely adopted in any particular region, it can be more of a problem than a solution.

Germany among others, offers a cautionary (and very expensive) tale. It's hardly a secret or conspiracy and it is very well documented in academia, serious media outlets etc. A good summary of the situation can be found here:

https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/369386-germany-shows-how-...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/business/climate-carbon-renewables.html

I am no climate change denier; quite the opposite. I strongly believe that super wasteful countries like our need to cut down their energy use per capita to a fraction of the current level -Yes to bikes! I just wish that anyone considering government mandated solar panels educated themselves better before forcing people into buying into one of the most highly subsidized and least effective way to mitigate climate change.

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It would be better for energy efficiency to mandate better insulation and white roofs.

1. Watertown can't mandate better insulation. That's building code, and it's defined by the state.
2. In New England, the energy saved by white roofs (A/C savings minus additional heating costs) pales in comparison to the electricity generated by flat roof-mounted panels (including netting out the snow-covered days). It's not even close.

If you're not doing solar, white is better than black if the building has A/C. But solar is way better than white.

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One of the untold benefits of white roofs is that they last longer. A black asphalt shingle roof might last 25 years. The same shingles in a light-gray shade might last a few years longer.

The destructive effects of UV are nonlinear. If you can reduce UV absorption by 5%, then that reduces damage caused by UV by 20%. I'm not as familiar with damage caused by heat, but it might be a similar curve.

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Trying to put them on every little building not so much.

It's for buildings 10,000 sq ft or larger. Do you even read the articles, bro?

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Is Watertown even set up properly to work with microgrids? The city could be creating headaches for the utility company if it isn't and every new building starts pushing energy in the grid which can't handle it.

Microgrids have nothing to do with grid-connected distributed solar. As part of the interconnection process, the utility reviews the application and ensures that it can be interconnected safely. If not, the utility details the costs necessary to make it safe, and either (a) the applicant pays, or (b) the applicant modifies the design, or (c) the applicant doesn't install.

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At least some of them will be in the right orientation for solar, and they are usually taller than surrounding buildings and trees.

White roofs are dubious here where heating is needed for buildings.

Insulation is a great idea - and they are doing that, too, under another mandate.

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I spoke with a Watertown Councillor about this a week ago or so, and he described it as 10,000 sq ft+ (as reported) when a special permit is required (not reported).

It may well be that every 10,000 sq ft project requires a special permit because of odd-lots, restrictive zoning, or whatevs -- but the special permit clause made sense to me. Special permits require counterbalancing amenities, and Watertown could just declare that PV is a necessary counterbalancing amenity.

Anybody got the goods on "required in a by-right development" versus "required under a special permit"?

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Government speak for legalized extortion.

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