Editorial: Embrace the sun

Steel. Oil. Automobiles. At the turn of the 20th Century those industries produced perhaps the most dramatic growth of cities and wealth the United States had ever seen.

America was on a roll and nothing was going to stop it. No one was resisting oil as the new source of energy. Steel meant skyscrapers were within reach. No one was rushing to continue the use of wood to preserve the jobs of lumberjacks.

Keep horses as a form of transportation over the automobile? And give up speed and durability? Street cleaners, farriers and knackermen would have to find new work.

And here we are today, nearly two decades into a new century with new forms of energy and technology, some dramatically affecting our lives now, some with great promise on the horizon.

To its credit, Wilton’s Energy Commission is looking forward with its continued support of solar energy options. One possibility members are looking at is to “solarize” school parking lots. Parking lots tend to be vast, open spaces with lots and lots of sun. Who hasn’t gotten into their car in summer and barely been able to touch the steering wheel? Or in winter found their car considerably warmer than it is outside?

Erecting a canopy over a parking lot uses available space that is otherwise unobstructed. It enables installation of solar panels that might not be suitable for rooftops and it does not require setting aside space for ground units.

This could also be an application that should be seriously considered by Wilton’s corporate residents.

Many of the towns and business entities that have installed solar canopies over their parking lots also install electric car chargers so EV owners can juice their car’s battery using solar power.

The commission is also investigating solar “strips” along athletic fields.

The efficiency of solar continues to rise while prices fall. It’s not hard to believe solar cells will go the way of the computer — expensive mainframes that once filled an office floor have shrunk to fit on our laps and in our hands.

There are many other energy-producing technologies that may one day become commonplace. In one exciting development, the British-based company Pavegen has designed tiles that capture the kinetic energy of people who travel across them. They have been installed under an artificial turf playing field in Brazil, in train stations in Europe, in shopping centers in Australia, and in Terminal 3 of London’s Heathrow Airport. This summer the company installed its first section of “smart street” in London.

Fossil fuels will eventually go the way of the steam engine no matter how desperately politicians try to revive coal and encourage more oil drilling. Smart leaders will embrace new, clean technologies.

Wilton’s Energy Commission should continue on this track. Our health, our environment, and our pocketbooks will be better for it.