Tisbury celebrates groundbreaking for CVEC solar arrays

Tisbury's ground-breaking delegation included, from left, selectman Tristan Israel, Dukes County CVEC representative Peter Cabana, former renewable energy committee member Henry Stephenson, Tisbury CVEC representative and renewable energy committee member Bill Straw, renewable energy committee member Mary-Ellen Larsen, selectman Jeff Kristal, and former renewable energy committee member Peter Goodale. — Photo by Janet Hefler

Despite a chilly wind, the sun shone brightly Tuesday for the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) groundbreaking ceremony to launch Tisbury’s municipal solar array project. The event took place at the town’s capped landfill at noon.

Tisbury selectmen Jeff Kristal and Tristan Israel, along with representatives from the town’s various renewable energy entities, past and present, joined CVEC officials and representatives from the project’s construction and finance team at the site, which is located off the end of the Park and Ride lot.

Tisbury’s 1.2 mega-watt solar project is expected to save the town more than $78,000 over the first year, and an estimated cumulative total of $2.3 million over 20 years, CVEC president John Checklick said in his remarks.

Mr. Kristal said Tisbury’s solar project involved a huge effort by past and present members of the town’s renewable energy committee who attended the ceremony. They included CVEC representative Bill Straw, Dukes County CVEC representative Peter Cabana, Henry Stephenson, Mary-Ellen Larsen, and Peter Goodale. Mr. Kristal also recognized the efforts of Chris Fried, who did not attend.

“We all excited,” Mr. Kristal added. “And we’re extra excited to begin work with CVEC and American Capital Energy [ACE], to start seeing some serious savings.”

Mr. Israel noted that Tisbury wanted to pursue alternative energy and began looking at wind energy about 12 years ago.

“We were excited about the switch to solar,” he said. “The bottom line is that we want to see this facility operating, we want to set an example by it, and we want to save the town money.”

CVEC launched its municipal solar energy initiative in 2011. To date, the cooperative is involved in two phases of photo-voltaic (PV) solar array projects. CVEC awarded the contract to build its first round of eight solar projects in seven member towns, which include Tisbury and Edgartown, to American Capital Energy (ACE) in April 2011.

CVEC experienced several delays with its round-one projects when ACE hit some roadblocks in receiving interconnection agreements with NSTAR and in seeking state approval for net metering.

“We want to thank CVEC and the town for staying with us through this ordeal,” ACE business development manager Bill Fitzpatrick said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We’re happy to get started.”

The energy produced from CVEC’s eight round-one projects will represent 26 percent of the Cape and Vineyard municipal load and 1.1 percent of the total energy load for all customers on the Cape and Vineyard, according to CVEC.

CVEC special projects coordinator Liz Argo told The Times that construction on the second round of projects in 10 towns and districts, including West Tisbury and additional projects in Tisbury and Edgartown, would be starting very soon. “All of the projects, round one and two, have to be up and running by the end of June 2014,” she said.

CVEC is a separate organization from CLC. Its objectives include developing and/or owning renewable electric generation facilities and procuring or selling long-term electric supply or other energy-related goods and services at competitive prices to member communities and consumers within them.

The CVEC photovoltaic (PV) initiatives offer unique project structures that take advantage of federal and state incentives for solar development and allow bundling leverage as the cooperative procures and develops projects on behalf of its municipal members, according to a press release.

ACE specializes in large complex roof- and ground-mounted systems, and it designs, finances, installs, and implements solar systems for commercial, municipal, and utility clients, according to a press release. Global Structure Finance Advisors helped ACE arrange the deal with CVEC and the project’s financing. Clean Focus Corporation is providing construction and permanent financing and will own and operate CVEC’s eight round-one projects.