The Download: The solar advantage

Over time, solar will trump wind. So says James Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy, one of the country’s largest electric power utilities. During a question-and-answer session after his keynote address at a recent MIT Energy Conference in Boston, Rogers told the audience that solar has an edge over wind since energy from the sun can be distributed to the electric grid at times of peak demand. Named by Newsweek as one of the “50 most powerful people in the world,” Rogers is a big believer in renewable energy and supported the Obama administration’s failed cap-and-trade plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In Massachusetts, solar may trump wind for a simpler reason. It is provoking far less of the NIMBY reaction that often greets proposals for towering wind turbines, which some label a visual blight and which have drawn complaints about noise.

Solar can transform sealed landfills and other industrial sites into power plants. Deerfield is studying proposals for a solar farm on a former landfill. The plant would power municipal buildings and allow the town to pull in revenues through net metering, the sale of some of the excess electricity to the regional utility Western Massachusetts Electric. (CommonWealth’s winter issue cover story looks in-depth at the net metering issue.) Greenfield, Northfield, and Montague are also looking into municipal solar farms projects.

The mother of all solar farms is on tap for Canton, where town officials are hoping to build what would be New England’s largest solar farm on an old landfill. Canton would cash in on an estimated $70 million in new revenues and electricity savings over the next 25 years.

Meanwhile, some onshore wind projects continue to run out of steam.  Falmouth officials thought they were doing the right green thing by building a wind turbine on town-owned land. But they have been forced into the embarrassing position of turning off the turbine on windy days, since neighboring homeowners aren’t taking kindly to the noise or visual disturbances caused by the spinning blades. Bourne, Brewster, and Dennis are also having troubles with turbines.

The Falmouth experience serves as a cautionary tale for municipal officials who fail to do all their homework. If opposition to onshore wind projects grows, solar could end up as the glaring favorite in the Bay State.

                                                                                                                                                    –GABRIELLE GURLEY

EDUCATION

It was a mix of the ‘hood and the hoity yesterday, as President Obama offered a ed reform pep talk to a thrilled gymnasium of students at Dorchester’s TechBoston Academy and then made his way to the Museum of Fine Arts to hobnob with big-money donors at a $1 million fundraiser for Congressional Democrats.  Here’s the Globe story  on the visit, and a second piece on the neighborhood reaction in Codman Square, where TechBoston is located. WBUR has extensive coverage of the visit, including a news report, a previously recorded interview with TechBoston’s head master, and video of the event.

Chronically tardy students at Fall River’s Durfee High School get automated wake-up calls each morning at 6:15, NECN reports.

BEACON HILL

Gov. Patrick hosts a town hall-style meeting in Haifa, Israel. NECN’s Alison King has the story.

DIMASI CASE

Joseph Lally a codefendant in the federal corruption case again former House speaker Sal DiMasi, pleaded guilty yesterday to eight charges. Prosecutors are recommending a two- to three-year sentence in return for Lally’s agreement to testify against DiMasi in the case.

BLUE CROSS

Facing a torrent of criticism, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts announced that it is suspending pay for its board of directors.  (The move adds even more egg to the face of AFL-CIO president Robert Haynes, a $72,000 a year board member, who only a day earlier sought to minimize the issue.)

The Boston Herald devotes its front-page splash to the news that Blue Cross may seek to break away from its public charity status. It also has columns from Howie Carr on Cleve Killingsworth and Peter Gelzinis on Andrew Dreyfus, the Blue’s new top honcho. The Globe reports that Blue Cross is a nonprofit that pays state and federal taxes, doesn’t accept donations, and operates like a complex business. WBUR’s Radio Boston has on Paul Guzzi, who heads the Blue Cross board.

WASHINGTON

AG Martha Coakley has filed a brief in a federal court supporting the Obama administration in a case challenging the national health care law, the Globe reports.

Former congressman Joe Kennedy and current US Reps. Michael Capuano and Jim McGovern stood on the porch of an elderly East Boston couple that receives federal fuel assistance to decry a proposed cut to the program in the Obama administration budget proposal.

Senate Democrats, seeking to close a $50 billion budget impasse, are ready to embrace all sorts of third rails, like farm subsidies. US Rep. Peter King, who will chair high-profile hearings on Muslim radicalization, has had his own brushes with terror groups.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter: The Outraged Liberal is in full-throated fury over US Rep. Peter King’s embrace of the IRA tactics in the name of religion years ago while labeling all Muslims potential terrorists. Meanwhile, National Review says King’s plan to hold hearings tomorrow on the “radicalization of American Muslims” is long overdue.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The director of training for an ambulance company pleads guilty to submitting false records for EMT training classes he never conducted. The former fire chief of Middleton and Ipswich gets a year of unsupervised probation, according to a story in the Salem News.

North Andover Police Chief Richard Stanley says proposed budget cuts in his town and spillover crime from Lawrence could lead to a “horror show” this year, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Federal disaster aid will cover a portion of snow removal costs for the January 12 storm, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The economic development agency in Lynn announces plans to take the closed Anthony’s Hawthorn Restaurant by eminent domain even though the Athanas family is up to date on taxes and says it plans to redevelop the property, the Item reports.

Former Quincy mayor William Phelan, ousted from office in 2007 and beaten again in 2009 in a comeback attempt, has been picked as interim town administrator for Holbrook, a town about one-eighth the size of Quincy.

FISHERIES

The Northeast Seafood Coalition analyzes the winners and losers under the federal government’s catch-share program. The Gloucester Times reports that a Cape Cod group benefited at the expense of fishermen in Gloucester, New Bedford, and Pt. Judith, R.I.

Commercial fishermen to departing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke: Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on the way out.

PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS

WBUR has this story on the municipal health care hearing at the State House. The Salem News gives a thumbs down to the proposal from public sector unions on pocketing some of the savings.

HEALTH CARE

One in four college students take Adderall, the drug used for years to treat attention deficit disorder, and swear by its benefits as a study aid but psychiatrist and ADD specialist Edward Hallowell tells Emily Rooney there are potentially deadly risks to the “smart drug.”

PUBLIC FINANCE

Municipal bond issuances are on pace to hit 11-year low in the first quarter. 

MILITARY

The Lockheed Martin Sippican plant in Marion has won a $50 million contract for upgrade kits for the Navy’s MK-48 torpedoes. The software kits will allow the torpedoes to maneuver and find targets in shallower water.

MEDIA

NPR gets the ACORN treatment as the controversial James O’Keefe of Project Veritas airs a hidden-video recording of an NPR fundraising executive blasting Republicans, the Tea Party, middle America, Jews, and Christians.

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