Island wind energy cooperative proposed
The Vineyard Energy Project (VEP), a nonprofit organization focused on Martha's Vineyard's energy needs, this week launched an initiative to develop a community-owned wind energy cooperative, named Vineyard Power (VP).
VEP's energy cooperative proposal calls for constructing 17 wind turbines, capable of producing 43 mega-watts of energy, in an offshore location agreeable to the Martha's Vineyard community.
In an interview with The Martha's Vineyard Times on Tuesday, David McGlinchey, VEP executive director, and staff member Suzanne Slarsky Dael described the outlines of the proposed cooperative.
The medium-sized turbines would stand about 440 feet high, measured to the top of the blade tip at the highest point. "We think that large turbines will receive a different reception if they are owned by the community," Mr. McGlinchey said.
Currently, all utility users have the option to choose a supplier and the default supplier is Cape Light Compact (CLC), a community based group. Anyone who lives on Martha's Vineyard and pays an electric bill would be eligible to join Vineyard Power, Mr. McGlinchey said.
A share in the cooperative will require a one-time payment. The membership fee will start at $50 and increase quarterly until 2015, at which time a membership will cost $975. Membership will be opened once Vineyard Power is incorporated, which Mr. McGlinchey expects to be completed in a month or so. "We may be recruiting members soon," he said.
VEP's goal is to recruit 900 members/owners and to begin arranging financing for the project by next spring.
Under the cooperative model, financing will consist of 3 percent equity from members, one-half from low-interest Federal loans, 12 percent from renewable energy tax credits, and 35 percent from tax investors.
The cooperative model calls for any revenues to be returned to the ratepayers. The cooperative would elect a board of directors, which would in turn hire a management company to run Vineyard Power, Mr. McGlinchey said.
The next goal will be to recruit up to 3,600 members by 2012 and to have the energy cooperative operational by 2016.
For the last four months, Mr. McGlinchey and Ms. Dael said they have been making informal "living room" presentations about Vineyard Power to small groups of Islanders, reaching about 200 so far.
They were also expected to present their proposal to the All-Island selectmen last night.
Mr. McGlinchey said that he and Ms. Dael received a lot of positive feedback as well as some constructive criticism that helped them refine the cooperative proposal. They also both stressed that decisions about siting of the proposed turbines must be made by the Martha's Vineyard community, while considering the best interests of Martha's Vineyard.
In 2007, the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) was established with three initial members - CLC, Barnstable County, and the town of Barnstable - with a long-term goal to develop a 20- to 30-turbine wind farm throughout member communities on the Cape and Vineyard in the next five to 10 years.
Currently, Aquinnah, Edgartown, and Tisbury have authorized their selectmen to join the CVEC. The cooperative is considering the feasibility of locating a 1.5 mega-watt wind turbine in Aquinnah.
Mr. McGlinchey said the CVEC's model is different from that of Vineyard Power's. "I think both cooperatives can succeed and thrive," he added.
The idea for the energy cooperative is an outgrowth of the Martha's Vineyard Commission's (MVC) Island Plan, which sets goals and targets for development and change for the next 50 years.
Rather than taking the weighty Island Plan document and letting it gather dust on a shelf, Mr. McGlinchey said, "The Vineyard Energy Project's board of directors decided we would take the goals of the Island Plan and turn them into a solution, so we have been researching the cooperative model."
He and Ms. Dael have been working on the cooperative model for about a year.
The state's Ocean Management Plan calls for 166 large-scale turbines to be built in two designated areas off Martha's Vineyard's shores, Mr. McGlinchey said it makes sense that the nearby Island community should receive the benefit from them.
"In terms of ocean management, whether for Martha's Vineyard or for any other community, if you ask a community to live adjacent to a large wind farm, there should be control kept in the community, and there should be benefits brought back to the community," Mr. McGlinchey said.
Since the Ocean Management Plan does not yet define the process of allocation, Mr. McGlinchey said, "There needs to be an explanation of who gets to develop the areas. And we're pushing for preference to be given to community-owned organizations."
"And we need to maintain community control," he added.