The West Tisbury energy committee introduced three main strategies toward attaining the town’s goal of being powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 — support West Tisbury’s transition toward having all electric vehicles and town buildings, provide information to the public on making the transition toward more electricity in their homes, and propose a bylaw that would make all new construction and major renovations required to be 100 percent electric.
The committee presented its plans for the next five years during a Zoom event Sunday hosted by the West Tisbury library. Committee members also shared with the public their experiences using renewable energy sources and products.
“The energy committee has been focused on meeting that goal, and that goal means 100 percent renewable energy for electricity, transportation, and buildings … that includes heating, hot water, and appliances,” committee member Ron D’Agostino said. “So we wanted to share our experience learning about these issues and making these changes in our lives … the climate news that we hear periodically can be pretty daunting, but we have the ability to make changes that will be our contribution to the solution and our contribution to making a difference, so that’s an empowering thing.”
The presentation discussed several renewable energy topics, such as electric vehicles, solar energy installations, making homes 100 percent electric-powered, and more. The committee members expressed the mostly positive experiences they have had converting to more renewable energy sources.
D’Agostino said when his car broke down a couple of years ago, he traded it in for a Chevy Bolt, an electric vehicle, instead of fixing it or getting another combustion-engine vehicle. “I have to say, I’ve loved the car. It’s got great pickup. As all EVs [electric vehicles] do, it’s much quieter than a normal car, and there is no more dead time filling it up with gas, which I didn’t realize how much dead time that was until I didn’t have to do it,” D’Agostino said. He also installed a 240-volt charger at his home for the car, and has received federal and state tax credits. D’Agostino did admit there were some shortcomings to his Chevy Bolt, such as having less than six inches of ground clearance, and worries about range per charge when he travels off-Island. Despite shortcomings, D’Agostino said these were temporary in the grand scheme of things, and improved electric vehicles will be available on the market in the future. He also mentioned there is an electric vehicle charger at the West Tisbury library.
Committee member Richard Andre and his wife “took the plunge” to build an all-electric home in 2006. The systems were gradually added and replaced, since not all of the technology was available for full electrification at the time, such as air-source heat pumps.
“We’ve gone through that transition, technology has advanced over 15 years, and we’re really super, super pleased with it,” Andre said. “The technology is moving very, very, very fast, and is now really, really worthwhile in economics and performance.”
Committee chair Kate Warner said she installed solar panels in her yard in 1998, the first grid-tied system on Martha’s Vineyard. “I think it’s a great thing to do if you have an unshaded roof or ground area. It’s particularly great if you’re making these other transitions to all-electric,” Warner said. “You want to have that electricity coming in from a renewable source.”
Andre said the process of installing solar panels was “fairly easy,” thanks to the number of local installers. Similar to electric vehicles, usage of electricity or renewable energy may also result in federal or state tax rebates.
Committee member Nikola Blake acknowledged that transitioning to renewable energy can be a big decision for many people. “People have fears … fears about costs and also a lack of knowledge. They’re all big, negative factors to making the transition. People seem to be more confident about electric vehicles, but still, range anxiety and costs seem to be the main drawbacks,” Blake said.
According to the presentation, West Tisbury and the committee have worked toward improved energy efficiency and the 2040 goal. The town has been a part of the state’s Green Communities program since 2011. West Tisbury School was added to the program this summer, and is working toward changing and replacing its equipment for improved energy efficiency and freedom from fossil fuels. To gain more information, the committee made an energy questionnaire to find out “how to best support the townspeople’s transition to 100 percent electric by 2040.” Additionally, the committee received a grant that allowed them to bring in an engineering team to analyze the town’s resilience to extreme weather events and prolonged power failure, resulting in the West Tisbury Clean Energy and Resilience Report.
For the sake of the presentation’s flow, two segments were held for public comments and questions to the committee, which primarily consisted of questions about converting to renewable energy sources and electric vehicles. The public was encouraged to seek more information by emailing the committee at email@example.com.