A Question of Perspective

Some people consider megawatt scale wind turbines ugly and some think they are graceful.

Same holds true for solar energy system installations of any size. An interesting article today in the New York Times titled, Solar Panels Rise Pole by Pole, Followed by Gasps of ‘Eyesore’, focuses on the deployment of individual solar modules on utility poles by New Jersey’s oldest and largest utility, PSEG.

PV solar energy

An Aesthetic Enhancement to a Light Pole? - Source: Petra Solar

PSEG, led by forward thinking CEO Ralph Izzo, has been leveraging a technology by Petra Solar which allows solar energy to be inverted at the module level and feed AC energy directly into the grid at the streetlight or utility pole level. The product, which is also Smart Grid ready, takes advantage of already deployed utility assets and turns each pole into a high value energy producer.

The article centers on aesthetics of the pole mounted modules in suburban neighborhoods. While I have always thought renewable energy producing technology is attractive, it’s really difficult to understand the objection of one PV module on each already unattractive light pole. But the 508 comments by NYT readers where mostly in favor and the following 4 comments sum up many of my thoughts generally:

“You know what’s an eyesore, suburban New Jersey? Having your mountaintop blown up and dumped in your stream. Having a hydraulic fracturing well set up shop next door to you. Living a quarter-mile from an aging coal-fired or nuclear power plant. Not only are these eyesores — much, much more than your solar panels — they’re a risk to your health.

Yet this is a reality for millions of Americans. I’m as sensitive as they come about aesthetics, but get over it people. This shows a real lack of awareness and/or concern for the human and environmental costs of the way we typically generate electricity in this country.

Personally, I would pay more to live in a neighborhood with these solar panels. “

“I see those solar panels as objects of pride. The community has moved in a direction that we all need to go. It is a badge of honor (protecting the environment), and evidence of sane planning in an era where carbon fuels are destroying the earth.

Be happy and glad, New Jersey. The entire nation envies you!”

“Count me in as a New Jerseyan who doesn’t even notice the ugly utility poles directly outside of my door, and certainly barely notices the solar panels. The pole has got transformers, wires and a street light hanging onto it, in addition to cables for power and TV–it is what it is.”

“My family lives on a pleasant tree-lined street in a central New Jersey town, and we are thrilled that even this token solar project is being implemented on such a wide scale. I wouldn’t want a coal or nuclear plant next door, but a few small solar panels attached to utility poles? YIMBY – Yes, in my back yard.”

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