Up-Island Cronig’s owner plans to install solar canopies

Steve Bernier said the $1.8 million solar array would provide about 75 percent of his West Tisbury store’s electricity needs.


Cronig’s Market owner Steve Bernier plans to install an array of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that will include roof panels and vehicle canopies at his State Road West Tisbury property, which includes Up-Island Cronig’s and a nearby retail building that houses the West Tisbury Post Office.

The canopy-style solar panels will be similar in appearance to three sets of canopy-style solar panels installed in 2012 at Mr. Bernier’s Vineyard Haven market.

On Jan. 7, the West Tisbury zoning board of appeals approved an application for the installation of the panels. The new project required zoning board approval because it exceeds the maximum allowable size for a ground-mounted solar array without a variance — 1,500 square feet and taller than 12 feet — and because it will not meet the required property-line setback. The planned arrays will be about 17 feet high, and will total 6,000 square feet.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) review of the project as a development of regional impact (DRI) is not required, in the opinion of MVC DRI coordinator Paul Foley.

In response to a request for an opinion from West Tisbury building inspector Joe Tierney, in an email dated Jan. 4, Mr. Foley said the proposal does not meet the threshold of 50,000 square feet for solar arrays “found in DRI checklist 9.3. I suppose if you considered this ‘outdoor commercial space’ someone could make a case that it might trigger 3.1G on the DRI Checklist but it is not clear. If you felt it was a project that does not trigger the DRI Checklist but may have regional impact you can send a project as a Discretionary Referral under 1.1.”

Special permit in hand, the next step in the process is an application for a building permit. Mr. Tierney said he had not yet received an application.

The West Tisbury planning board will also review the project.

Unlike the down-Island store project, which is rated at 210 kilowatt-hours (kWh), the new project is rated at 220 kWh per year. There will be one bank of canopy solar panels in the market’s parking lot, and one smaller canopy over the store’s front porch. The canopies will include three charging stations, where store patrons can recharge their cars while shopping.

Solar panels will also be installed on the roofs of the market and the front of the Post Office building. There will be no canopy in the Post Office parking lot.

South Mountain Co. (SMC) of West Tisbury is the general contractor and project designer. Rob Meyers of SMC said that the components are the same as the down-Island store; PV parking canopies by Solaire Generation, and PV panels by SunPower.

Mr. Bernier told The Times that the new project will cost $1.8 million if all goes well. “It could run as much as $2 million,” he said.

The Vineyard Haven store solar project was financed and is owned by the Vineyard Power Cooperative, which leases the space from Cronig’s Market. That project cost about $1 million.

Mr. Bernier is financing the new project himself. He expects the power generated by the panels will pay for the project in 10 or 11 years.

“The panels will provide about 70 to 75 percent of our electrical needs Up-Island, and the power will go directly into the store,” he said, “while the panels at the down-Island store, a much bigger store, produce about 35 to 40 percent of our needs, and the power goes into the grid.”

Mr. Bernier said plans for the solar project would compliment a planned remodeling. “When we do a remodel Up-Island and we improve the refrigeration package, which is the major electrical component, I expect we will will produce close to 70 to 90 percent of what we will use,” he said.

The remodel won’t happen until he recovers from the initial costs of this project, he said. Work is expected to begin in the spring.

“We hope to get the lion’s share of the work done before Memorial Day, and to have the panels up and running before Thanksgiving 2016,” Mr. Bernier said. “We’ve got to get in there and get out before summer, when we pay the bills, and get back there in the fall to finish before the snow falls.”

He has already begun reroofing both buildings in preparation for the solar panels. “We are putting a new roof on top of the old roof on the store that will have standing seams that we can attach the panels to,” he said. “This system should last 30 years, and we want to make sure the roof lasts that long.”

Correction: This story was revised. “I expect our usage will be closer to 70 to 90 percent of what we will produce” was corrected to read, “I expect we will produce close to 70 to 90 percent of what we will use.”