The science is clear: if we want to preserve our climate – keep the Earth’s temperature from moving much higher – and to avoid further acidification of our oceans, we must quickly move away from fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy. More and more people realize this fact. Therefore, it was not surprising to see the panel discussion on solar and wind energy at the Peace Dale Congregational Church June 18 very well attended.

The four panelists offered their knowledge and experience from a scientific and economic perspective. Danny Musher from the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources pointed out the advantages of increasing energy diversity for the economy and the environment and explained some easy steps individuals can take in their own homes. Ben Swanson from Trinity Solar Energy Services showed the potential of saving money and reducing carbon emissions with solar panels.

Rich Bernier, director of construction services for the Narragansett Bay Commission, highlighted the importance of acceptance and enthusiasm by the community for town-wide renewable energy projects. This can be accomplished by a participatory approach to such projects and by careful siting of wind turbines, so there is minimum impact on neighbors and birds. Angelo Simeoni, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Rhode Island, shared the experiences of several European towns whose inhabitants are very enthusiastic about their energy independence, and how they harmoniously integrated wind farms into their natural landscapes.

Fortuitously, on the same day, Pope Francis issued a new encyclical, which profoundly criticizes humans’ exploitation and destruction of nature as well as of other human beings. The document clearly portrays climate change as a moral issue and calls on people of all faiths to take responsible action. It is becoming increasingly obvious that we need to apply both the knowledge of science and the ethical values and motivation that come from religion to effectively address climate change.

Therefore, it was very fitting that the South County Team of Rhode Island Interfaith Power and Light organized this panel at a church. The people attending the panel came from many backgrounds, from different faith communities, the scientific community and the business community. Many participants were interested in solar energy for their homes. Moreover, many attendees seemed to be committed to bring solar and wind power to our town.

The potential collaboration among such a wide diversity of people promises to provide that broad community support that was emphasized by the panelists to be a main ingredient for the successful implementation of a town-wide renewable energy project. For the sake of our children and people all over the world, we can only hope the people of South Kingstown (and neighboring towns) will have the courage to transform this vision into reality.

Christine Muller


The author is the board secretary for the RI Interfaith Power and Light.

(1) comment


Yes, wind power will hurt those who can least afford it. "Big" wind is very much like "big oil"... they seek to make profit on the backs of the ratepayers. The difference is coal and oil are affordable whereas wind is not affordable and not practical. The author of this feel-good gobbldygook drank the Kool-Aid and she is unable to see what's real in this world.

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