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Nature Notes: The Sun Is King

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 15:54

If there were no sun there would be stars, but no East Hampton Star. The latest calculations by astronomers, astrophysicists, and mathematicians is that the sun is 4.61 billion years old and has another five billion years to go before all of the hydrogen gas capacity is used up.

Ironically, even if modern medicine advances to the degree that we will be able to live forever, unless some of us move to a different solar system we will never live to be more than five billion years old.

If there were no sun, there would be no winds, indeed, no weather. That is to say, the sun is God of our planetary system. Without it there would be no Adam and Eve, no us!

So what is all this fuss about electricity-generating windmills in the ocean? Despite what the politicians/meteorologists tell us, and despite our governor’s persistence and rosy insistence, the sun is king, at least for another five billion years or so.

Yes, a simple device that tilts toward the sun and turns radiant energy into electrical energy would empower our electric needs for millenniums and millenniums to come. Imagine, Stony Brook University is going to start a program to teach students how to turn wind into electricity while there are already hundreds of men and women right here on Long Island who know all about capturing the sun’s rays and turning them into electrical energy, electrical energy that can power all of the homes on Long Island without having to waste time on the alternative.

And who is leading the way? Not any South Fork township or municipality, but two other East End communities, Riverhead and Southold. Riverhead’s town board has just voted to let a company set up a solar farm on part of its Grumman land. Three years ago, Riverhead agreed to let two solar companies establish a solar farm in Calverton without cutting down a single tree or destroying a single house, and now it produces enough electricity to completely power 1,200 homes.

This solar farm was installed immediately adjacent to an existing PSEG power grid station without tunneling under the bottom of any body of water, and certainly not under the second-largest ocean in the world, the mighty Atlantic.

The way Riverhead is going, perhaps by 2030 half of its homes will be powered by the sun at a metered rate of $10 to $20 a month each, 12 months a year.

Next comes Southold on the North Fork. It is at present planning to turn the old Cutchogue landfill into a solar farm. The town is also planning to solarize its Town Hall in the near future. Brookhaven Town to the west of Riverhead is not only the largest township in the state, it is the second most populous, as well. Brookhaven is now working on a plan to install solar panels atop its Town Hall.

I have a nephew who used to be in the merchant marine, was then in the nuclear energy business, and is now retired. He grew up in Riverhead and lives in Westchester County, and not too many years ago he bought a vacation home in Hampton Bays. A year ago he had a local company install solar panels on part of his roof, and his monthly electric bills in winter plummeted from $140 to $160 per month to $12 to $14 per month. Quite a saving!

You may have seen some of New York State’s TV ads promoting tourism and the idea of setting down roots here. They show the bridge named after the governor’s father, ski slopes and skiers, and the like. Most of all, one could not help but notice the shot of tall white poles with wind vanes on them out in the ocean. But how many solar panels did you notice?

Our ocean is already becoming more acidic and more polluted with plastics and other items. We have commercial fish and commercial fishermen, sport fish and sportfishermen. There are whales and dolphins, seals and sea turtles. There are only a few hundred North Atlantic right whales left. They swim by our shores in a northerly direction after breeding and calving in more tropical waters. In the spring they swim back south to repeat the cycle. They are one of the most endangered animal species in the world.

Surely we don’t have to muddy our waters with tall white poles sunk into the earth with sound blasts and their rotating blades producing energy but also knocking gannets and other pelagic birds from the sky. Most of that wind energy will go west toward the city. We have the sun for another five billion years rising and falling above and below the horizon each morning and every evening without fail. Think about it: 365 days a year for five billion years — that’s a lot of electrical energy, enough for us all, and then some!

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

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