Solar panels and historic districts – Wednesday Journal

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In the March/April issue of OP/FYI, Oak Park’s newsletter, the front page has a short article headlined, “Incorporating solar panels in historic districts,” and giving some guidelines for these installations. Among the requirements are that the panels be placed in areas that are not readily visible from the street, and installation should not entail damage or removal of any historic features of the building. Reading it made me sad about some of the priorities in Oak Park.

Global warming is an existential threat to human life, but Oak Park’s response seems to be that, hey, we’ll do our part, right up until the point that it inconveniences us just a little bit. That’s a very shallow attitude to have with such a serious problem.

Solar panels are a terrific part of a green energy solution, and they should be a big part of the global warming solution. But because 100 years ago our forefathers didn’t have to look at solar panels the decision seems to be that we won’t either. I don’t understand why we would prioritize keeping everything just exactly the way it was 100 years ago over moving to solve the global warming problem.

Solar panels work best when they’re oriented mostly toward the south so they can get the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day. Sometimes this makes them easy to install on a house so that they’re hidden from the street, and sometimes not. But being subjected to the sight of solar panels, even in a historic district, is a very small price to pay for helping to solve a threat like global warming.

It’s OK for us to be inconvenienced just a little bit. That’s what caring and responsible people do when faced with a problem — not complain about being bothered. The visitors who come to our village for the various walking tours won’t be left aghast and stop coming — they’ll be delighted by Oak Park’s progress.

Donald Trump famously complained about a proposed offshore wind farm in Scotland that would have been visible from one of his golf courses. He fought the battle to stop construction all the way to the UK Supreme Court. Fortunately he lost, the wind farm was built, and as far as I can tell no Scottish golfer has complained about it.

Even if this policy has zero actual impact on solar panel installation, it’s terribly tone deaf. I’m quite certain that we can do better. And I’m quite certain that if we could magically ask our forefathers for their permission that they’d gladly allow us to update their homes with a green energy solution.

The architects who helped put our village on the map were visionaries. And true visionaries understand that change is constant and the need to adapt is essential to survival. I’m also quite certain that our village board needs to change course and pass legislation to guarantee homeowners the right to install solar panels.

Steve Nations is an Oak Park resident.

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

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