Striking Solar: An Open Letter to the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee

Below is a letter I sent to the members of Belmont’s Middle and High School Building Committee which is contemplating eliminating a planned solar array from the roof of the new Middle and High School, reneging on a promise to the community to construct a Zero Net Energy facility. There’s a meeting Thursday AM at 7:30 (Homer Building) to discuss cuts, possibly including the solar array. You should attend.

Here’s what you can do in the meantime:

  • Please join me in emailing your support for solar to the Committee: 
  • Share this letter and this article in Belmontonian around to your Belmont acquaintances on Facebook and via e-mail
  • Attend a meeting of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee Thursday morning at 7:30 AM in the Homer Building at Town Hall.

Dear Superintendent Phelan and members of Belmont’s Middle and High School Building Committee:

My name is Paul Roberts. I’m a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 8, a board member at the Foundation for Belmont Education, a former School Committee member and Chairman of the Town’s IT Advisory Committee.

I am writing to the Committee after reading Franklin Tucker’s article in The Belmontonian regarding the committee’s consideration of removing a planned solar array from the roof of the new 7-12 building. 

I strongly urge the committee to stand by its past promises to include the array in the finished product and to build a “Zero Net Energy” building. ZNE was a key commitment to the community, which voted overwhelmingly to pass a debt exclusion supporting construction.

Per Mr. Tucker’s article, it is dismaying to hear Building Committee members including Mr. Phelan, Mr. Dorrance and Mr. McLaughlin speak of the solar panels in a manner that appears to be woefully out of step with our modern understanding of solar power, the importance of renewable energy sources and the function that the solar array will serve. All speak of the panels as if they are decorative features and equate them to skylights, white boards and flooring material. 

The solar panels are not decorations and frills to be gazed upon, as Mr. Dorrance implied, but a vital piece of the infrastructure of the building: its main energy source which willpower the facility, contribute power back to our municipal grid and reduce the operating cost of the facility by millions of dollars over its useful life – savings that will land in the pocket of residents. Given your long hours of labor in the planning of this project,  the members of the committee understand that, I trust, and don’t need to be reminded. Your comments in open meeting make me wonder, however. 

As students gather in protest of inaction to combat climate change around the world, how saddening it was to hear the leaders of our School Building Committee and – indeed – of our School District moving to strike renewable energy from the 7-12 building, the largest capital project Belmont has ever undertaken. To do so at any time would be a mistake. To do so in 2019 is inexcusable.  

I look forward to your meeting this week and to hearing about the creative means the Committee has devised to maintain the planned solar array and hold true to its promise to build a Zero Net Energy building


Paul Roberts sig
Paul F. Roberts, Cross Street, Belmont | TMM P8