Edgartown looks at solar power
Edgartown selectmen will consider an initiative to install large scale solar power generating technology atop town buildings. The Green Communities Act, a law enacted by state government on July 2, spurs the move toward solar energy. That legislation provides incentives, including financial and technical assistance, to cities or towns that make a commitment to renewable energy.
Kitt Johnson, chairman of the town's energy committee, said the new law caps the amount of energy towns can produce and sell to established conventional energy producers. While state regulators are still working out the details of the implementation, the law essentially creates a race among towns and private concerns to get energy saving projects under way and under the cap.
While Mr. Johnson believes solar power is not the most efficient alternative energy technology, he is convinced it is a very promising cost-saving option that can be up and running in a matter of months. "I hesitate to put a number on it," he said at Monday's selectmen's meeting. "But it could mean a lot to our bottom line."
Selectmen heard a sales presentation from John Abe, vice president of Nexamp, a North Andover company.
After surveying town buildings, Mr. Abe said it would be feasible to install solar panel arrays on the highway department garage on Meetinghouse Way and the Edgartown School on Robinson Road.
He said his company would install and operate the solar panels at no cost to the town, then sell the energy they produce to the town at a price approximately 32 percent lower than the current price of conventionally produced energy. He estimated that if conventional energy prices rise at six percent annually over the next 15 years, Edgartown would save $497,830, or an average of $33,189 per year. After the 15-year term of the project, the solar equipment will become the property of the town.
Over the next few months, selectmen will hear from other companies that propose energy saving projects.
"We're going to be deliberate," said selectman Art Smadbeck. "We're not going to be hasty; it's a long term commitment. We have to cover all the bases because we've never done this before."
Tidal energy update
Mr. Johnson said the town's efforts to study the feasibility of drawing energy from offshore tides is progressing. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth have just finished removing devices that measured the strength of current in Muskeget Channel, east of Chappaquiddick, over a full lunar cycle. Over the next few weeks, researchers will analyze the data to identify locations where the tides create a sustained current of more than four knots. In those locations, it may be cost-effective to locate tidal engines under the surface.
Tidal engines produce power from turbines turned by the movement of the ocean current. They are essentially underwater windmills.
Last year, the town won exclusive rights from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study a tidal energy project in the Muskeget Channel area. Under the terms of the license, Edgartown now has about 15 months to evaluate the environmental and economic impact and design a pilot tidal energy project for testing.