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Nature Notes: Google It

Mon, 11/25/2019 - 16:42

I have to admit, without Google I’d be a mental dwarf. I don’t use Facebook, don’t Tweet, don’t follow any blogs. I don’t mind jettisoning 75 to 100 political and other emails that I receive; I feel good after I flush the trash and spam down the drain.

But when I write or do the New York Times crossword or Newsday acrostic, Google is always there to help me with my spelling, the meaning of strange new words, the names of soap operas and sitcoms, as well as their casts, that I have never watched or even heard of. I live by my Galaxy phone and Google. That’s all I need to get by, other than food and sleep.

I particularly like Google Maps, especially those with satellite imaging. I can scan the local ones, say, showing East Hampton, Southampton, or Southold, and locate forests, fields, friends’ houses, ponds and wetlands, sanctuaries, schools, and roads, the names of which have faded away in my aging mind. I can say with all candor, if it weren’t for Google, I would never leave my room at home or I would have to be sequestered in some kind of sanitarium.

The brand-new satellite maps show my house, driveway, backyard, but more important, all of the houses and some just started in the previously mentioned three towns. For example, in East Hampton and the Village of East Hampton I counted more than 14,000 homes. I did not count schools, other institutions, or occupational sites, but could have easily. I counted houses because I wanted to see what it would take in terms of solar farms to electrify them all.

There is a rule in the field of solar energy that says it takes approximately 32 acres of solar panels to electrify 1,000 houses. As solar panels are made more efficient, 32 acres of panels would suffice for many more than 1,000 houses.

Next, using Google satellite imaging and a tax map book, I located the large open areas in the town that are not active farm fields, preserved open spaces, playing fields, parklands, and the like to see how many of the 14,000 houses could be electrified if those open areas became solar farms. I particularly paid attention to airports, having read in last week’s East Hampton Star of the town board’s abandonment of the latest plan to get total control of the town airport.

I discovered that there are at least 280 acres of empty open space at the airport in Wainscott that could be put to a better use than providing takeoffs and landings for helicopters and other commercial aircraft. That space alone could provide for the electrification of 8,750 homes. Next, I took the 64-plus acres at the Tintle (Wainscott Sand and Gravel) site that the town has been kicking about, already mostly cleared and out of clean sand, and came up with another 2,000 houses that could be electrified.

The large Bistrian sand mine of about 64 acres on the west side of Springs-Fireplace Road in the vicinity of the town recycling center is almost exhausted. Providing it with solar panels could generate enough electricity to power another 2,000 houses, bringing the running total to 12,750. Why not also solarize part of the former landfill itself, which could electrify another 1,500 houses, in this manner surpassing the 14,000 existing houses?

Other open spaces to consider are the Montauk Airport, and other smaller sand and gravel sites such as the new one on Middle Highway west of the village. The town has at least three such sites. Of course, the more houses that are provided with solar roofs over the few in the town that have them now, the less open space would be needed for electrifying them. Some of that electricity could be used to electrify stores and other workplaces. The institutional buildings in town, for example the Montauk Public School and East Hampton High School, have enough space for solar to provide the electricity that each needs. There is already one functioning solar field in town — one west of Accabonac Highway and north of Abraham’s Path in the hamlet of Springs — there should be several others in the future.

Why screw up our ocean with wind turbines and cables from them to landing sites, when there is more than enough sunlight to electrify the entire town and village? Solar panels do no kill birds the way wind turbines do. Some houses and non-domiciles, such as those facing south and west, are better situated for solarization than others. And those big ones along the ocean coast that use a lot of household electricity may be the best.

If you want to find out to what degree your own house or building is fit for solar panels and how much you might save over time by installing them, type in Type in your address, and voilà! There I go again, I can’t get away from Google.

Larry Penny can be reached via email at [email protected].

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