Last week, the gave the final approval for a plan to build , totaling 12,200 square feet, over the and parking lots in Vineyard Haven., a community-based energy cooperative and Cronig’s Market owner Steve Bernier were co-applicants for the project. The arrays will be installed by South Mountain Company.
The Vineyard Gazette reported that the approval process for the project was held up in February when “A question surfaced about the commission’s ability to rule on the issue, as 11 of the 15 voting members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission are members of the cooperative. The commission subsequently reached out to the state ethics commission for guidance, which directed only those commissioners who were not part of the cooperative to vote on the matter, as well as town-appointed commissioners who had to return to their appointing authorities for permission.”
The commission also expressed concern back in February over the lack of public response on the matter and delayed for a few days to allow public comment.
Richard Andre, President of Vineyard Power, said that he appreciated the commission’s decision to move cautiously on the matter.
“We take change seriously here,” said Andre, “but there has been hardly any opposition.”
According to the Gazette the commission, “received 13 written correspondences, seven supporting and five objecting to the project.”
Most of those opposed to the project, were not opposed to the building of the solar panels, but were opposed to the location. Many asked for the panels to go on the roof of Cronig’s instead of in the parking lot. However, the roof is not able to support the panels.
“In the end it’s a renewable energy project and it’s hard to argue with the benefits of that,” said Andre. “These are functional structures going up in a space that is used to store vehicles. I prefer this to clearing land or taking farmland any day.”
Once in place, the arrays will be able to provide Cronig’s with 25% of their electricity. The arrangement is set up that Vineyard Power builds the canopy and Bernier lets them use the property. In ten years, Bernier will have the option to purchase the array and, should he purchase them, at that point he’ll own all the benefits of the arrays.
For those wondering whether any of the savings will be passed on in terms of a reduction in prices, the answer is: we all have to wait.
“Steve (Bernier) is really leading the way here,” said Andre. “He doesn’t get any financial benefits for ten years.”
However, in the long term Cronig’s will be able to keep their costs down as they will be using renewable energy without paying a premium.
“And since they own the energy, those costs won’t go up like fossil fuels.”
For the rest of us, we can take heart in knowing that by shopping at Cronig’s, we are supporting the Island’s efforts to create the energy that it uses. Plus we get to enjoy the ancillary benefits of the protection from the rain and the shade created by the arrays. Another environmental benefit will be that shoppers won’t have to blast their air conditioners quite so fast when they get back into their cars on a hot summer day.
The arrays will also have the ability to charge electric cars. While there are currently only one or two of these vehicles on the Island, cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt are already taking off. Andre thinks it’s only a matter of time before we are seeing more of these cars on the roads, saying that their popularity will be similar to that of the Prius.
“The Island particularly suited to (electric cars). We don’t have long distances or high speed limits and many people leave their cars on the Island for long periods of time.”
Andre is also counting on a shift in our collective concept of refueling away from fossil fuels and toward plugging in – especially into power that is Island owned and created.
Work on the two arrays in the Healthy Additions parking lot will begin immediately, as the hope is to have them finished by early June. The third array, in the parking lot in front of Cronig's, will be built in the fall.