Tag Archives: climate action

What To Know About Going Solar

From charging your phone to heating your home, energy powers your life. Unfortunately, not every energy resource is sustainable. Currently, many people rely on fossil fuels for most of their energy needs. Fossil fuels are finite resources—such as coal, oil, and natural gas—found in the earth and release excess greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – the root of climate change.  

Solar energy, on the other hand, is cleaner and limitless. If you are interested in going green, solar panels may be a great addition to your home. Here are the basics you need to know. 

Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

How do solar panels work? 

As you drive through your town, you may see solar panels on the roof of someone’s home. These solar panels, or photovoltaic cells, rely on sunlight to create a microscopic reaction that separates electrons from the atom. This separation results in an electrical current that we can harness and use. Even when the sun isn’t shining, power is generated by an electric grid connected to the module. 

Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary

What to consider before getting solar panels 

There are a couple of factors you need to consider before installing any solar panels on your home, including location and orientation to the sun. Solar panels should be placed in a location with plenty of direct sunlight and free of any trees or buildings that could block the sun’s rays. For houses in the Northern Hemisphere, it is optimal for solar panels to face south.  

Once you confirm that your home is suitable for solar panels, you must decide what type and number of panels to install. A solar photovoltaic (PV) module can be installed on your roof or mounted on the ground. 

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

Buying versus leasing solar panels 

While both buying and renting solar panels are cost-effective green solutions to powering your home, there are different advantages to both options. When you buy solar panels, they can increase your home’s value and save you more in your monthly energy costs. On the other hand, upfront costs for solar panels are much less when leasing, and you are not in charge of future maintenance.  

No matter what you decide, there are several statewide and third-party programs to help you finance solar panel installation. If you choose to use a third-party program, there are typically two types of agreements. The first is a lease that allows you to only pay for the solar system rather than the electricity generated. The second option is a power purchase agreement (PPA) in which the provider installs the PV array and then sells the electricity generated back to you at a rate that is usually lower than the local utility price. 

If leasing or buying isn’t feasible for you, a community solar program where you receive energy from a shared solar system, may be a perfect solution. 

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary © Phil Doyle

Solar at Mass Audubon

Here at Mass Audubon, we strongly support responsibly-sited solar power, and improved access to it, as highlighted in our Action Agenda goals. Through careful site selection and consideration, 20 Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries are powered in part or in full by solar PV arrays. Our teams meticulously choose solar installation sites to minimize the loss and fragmentation of existing ecosystems and support resilient landscapes, so our first choice is to always install solar panels on an available roof. 

Mass Audubon’s largest array, with 119 PV roof panels, powers the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, and even has excess power for nearby buildings to use. In addition to the ELC, the Nature Center, Farm Life Center, and Green Barn are all equipped and powered in part by separate solar arrays.  

Unlike the panels at Drumlin Farm that are fixed in one direction, the PV array at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton tilts and rotates to follow the sun. Throughout the day, the panel adjusts to track the sun’s location and generates as much solar energy as possible. Compared to a fixed array, adjustable arrays can harness 45% more power. 

In April of 2022, the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan announced it’s accomplishment of reaching a net-zero energy status, or becoming carbon neutral, through the installation of solar panels on the George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center, and a nearby ground-mounted array. By becoming carbon-neutral, the Boston Nature Center is eliminating the emission of more than 136,000 pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide annually.

Learn more

If you want to learn more about the solar panel benefits, costs, and programs, visit Mass Save, an organization that aims to help residents and businesses across Massachusetts save money and energy, leading our state to a clean and energy-efficient future. Be a leader in your community and consider switching to solar power today. 

Ollie holding a chicken

In Your Words: Ollie P.

As a 15-year-old climate activist, people often ask me at what age I first got involved and started working with Mass Audubon. While I officially became a member when I was 11, I have been involved in this work for my whole life.  

Ollie

For my generation, there was never really a time for us when climate change wasn’t a reality or when we didn’t have something at stake in this fight. Even when I was little, I understood that my very future hangs in the balance. So, I started learning about the science of climate change, the role of youth voices, and the intersectionality of these many issues. And once I understood that joining the fight against the climate crisis doesn’t just mean combating climate change, it also means fighting for social justice, I knew that I had a responsibility to add my voice to this fight.  

But at that time, it felt like no one was giving young people the tools needed to actually do something about everything that we were learning and experiencing. Instead of believing that we were simply too small to make a difference, my peers began leading the way. I was 8 years old when Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and 20 other young leaders sued the U.S. government for not addressing the climate crisis head-on. I was 10 when I first heard Greta Thunberg’s name and saw global climate strikes starting up all over the world. It was the first time I felt like I might have a voice in this.  

Ollie

Mass Audubon’s Youth Climate Leaders program has provided me and my peers with the tools to help lead the next phase of this fight. Our mission is to help other young leaders recognize that we each have a powerful voice that we can use to spark change. This program has really shown me that no one is too small to make an impact. My fellow Statewide Youth Climate Leaders and I put together a guide on how to form and manage a youth-led climate group. Visit massaudubon.org/yclp to download the Youth Climate Leaders Toolkit and learn how you can get involved. 


In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares their story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email [email protected]  to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue!