By Sophia Anderson
My name is Sophia Anderson, I am 16 years old and a resident of Bar Harbor. Ever since I was born here in Bar Harbor, I have had an incredibly strong personal and communal connection with the earth. Anyone who’s a local will know that the people of Bar Harbor depend on the habitat around them: for food, water, shelter, spirituality and so much more. I’ve been learning all my life that nature nurtures the soul, but I know too well that we don’t always give back what we’ve been given, or what we’ve taken.
One important step in regenerating our connection with the earth and expressing our gratitude is to stand together and vote yes this November in favor of adding a solar amendment to the town of Bar Harbor’s land use ordinance. If we don’t, future generations of us humans on MDI as well as future animals and plants will continue to have their lives disrupted and eventually destroyed by the effects of accelerated climate change.
Our beautiful oceans will become more and more acidified, rise higher and higher, and become less habitable and enjoyable. The air quality and pollution levels will rise as well, and we will be forced to become even more detached from our lands and Acadia.
Just as important, our emotional connection to the earth will be severed. This last one hits home for me the hardest. Imagine future generations not experiencing the same cool early morning raspberry and blueberry picking sessions as I did, where I could feel the dewy grass and swishing trees nurturing my soul and calming my mind. I was raised not only by my parents but also by these moments. I think every resident of Bar Harbor would agree how important it is to keep these moments alive, so it should also be that every resident supports adding a solar amendment to Bar Harbor’s land use ordinance. This one vote will be so incredibly important to the future of this land that has held so much life for so long. It is time we repay the land what it’s due.
This amendment to Bar Harbor’s Land Use Ordinance (Chapter 125) would allow for the development of free-standing solar. Currently, the town ordinance does not allow for any amount of non-accessory free-standing solar. The Southwest Harbor landfill and the former Tremont landfill are both great examples of free-standing arrays on MDI. These arrays are built directly on the ground and are supported by beams, rather than the roofs of buildings. Bar Harbor alone has the capacity to host 10-12 megawatts of solar, a significant amount of MDI’s power. This illustrates how crucial it is that the town allows for free-standing solar. In order for Bar Harbor to genuinely reach its Climate Emergency Declaration commitments (becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon negative by 2050), we must say yes to adding an amendment to the town ordinance this November. Developing solar farms are multi-year projects, which can’t even be started unless we are sure that the town will allow the farms to be built.
This solar amendment began with former A Climate To Thrive (ACTT) interns Matilda Allen, Lily Crikelair and Ayano Ishimura, who presented to the Bar Harbor Town Council asking them to consider changing the town’s land use ordinance to allow for freestanding solar. This past June, during a public hearing, ACTT intern Alifair Durand McDonell, as well as other members of the public, testified in favor of the amendment. Later, these testimonies caused the planning board to vote unanimously in favor of the amendment. Now I write, as a former ACTT intern, encouraging members of our community to support this solar ordinance.
In conclusion, the natural habitat that surrounds our communities on Mount Desert Island has supported us for so long, and if you want this relationship to continue for future generations, you must vote in favor of adding a solar amendment this November. Thank you for your time.
Sophia Anderson is a resident of Bar Harbor.