To the Editor:
Your recent article on Grey Barn Farm's solar project prompts this letter (Aug. 26, "Stimulus funds help sprout Grey Barn Farm solar").
Alternative technology seems to be available only to those able to afford it. My partner installs solar thermal heat/hot water. For every system he has been blessed to install, there are 20 Island families who desperately wanted to install solar systems to heat their homes and hot water, but they can't afford it. Unemployed, underemployed Island contractors, carpenters, waitstaff, teachers, nurses, landscapers — credit cards maxed, just making the mortgage, these are the people who need to be able to access the "solar incentives." The recession has hit us hard. We don't have big companies to work for. A 30 percent tax credit does not do much good when you don't have the money or can't take out another loan in the first place. The president's 30 percent grant seems to have quietly disappeared.
If President Obama and his administration are serious about encouraging alternative energy use, perhaps they should follow Australia's lead: Low interest or no interest homeowner loans to install solar technology. These loans should be administered by local banks, and forgiven over the period of five to 10 years. I think that $4 million dollars, at a cost of $25,000 each, would go a long way to heating 160 homes for the next 30 years, not supplying "about half" of the electricity needed in 46 sites across Massachusetts.
I wish Grey Barn Farm luck with their project. It really sounds beautiful, ambitious, and will be a great asset to the Island. However, I am not sure how many Islanders will be driving to Chilmark for goat cheese. We will probably be out cutting firewood.