Letter: Don’t cut down forests for solar panels

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 27, 2020

I am a retired professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering at N.C. State University. I have been a proponent of solar energy for over 40 years. In 1980-81, I designed and built the N.C. State University Solar House for research and educational purposes. Thousands of North Carolinians have had the opportunity to go through the house and learn about the magic of solar energy. It can be used to provide some heat for our homes, to heat domestic hot water and to provide some electricity. I think that’s great.

However, as we strive to incorporate more solar into our lives, we have to be ever mindful of the possible side effects of our actions. We see this often in the medicines that we take. For example, if we have to cut down a forest to make room for solar panels to generate green electricity, we may inadvertently make the global warming problem worse because trees are a major absorber of carbon dioxide — which is considered to be a major contributor to the global warming problem. So, in our enthusiasm to use solar panels to reduce this global warming problem, our actions (cutting down the trees in a forest) may in actuality be making the problem worse. This is a prime example of “The Law of Unintended Consequences.”

Placing the solar panels on the roofs of buildings may be an environmentally wiser option.

— Herbert M. Eckerlin