Aquinnah takes over landfill solar array

The 50 kW array is capable of generating enough electricity for the entirety of Aquinnah's municipal facilities. — MV Times

In its effort to completely eliminate the town’s dependency on fossil fuels, and reduce electricity costs, Aquinnah has taken over ownership of a 10-year-old solar array located by the town’s landfill. 

A press release issued by Aquinnah officials over the weekend announced the transfer, which will aid the town in reaching its goal of eliminating 100 percent of its fossil fuel use by 2040. 

The 50-kilowatt solar array has reduced the town’s municipal energy costs by more than $10,000 per year, and is capable of producing enough energy to power all of Aquinnah’s town offices, emergency facilities, and library.

Although already in use, the array had not been considered town property, and hence, the town had not been able to fully reap the benefits of eventual zero municipal energy costs; however, it was provided a favorable discount. Now property of Aquinnah, the system will provide the town with electricity essentially free of cost.

The December transfer of ownership from a Vineyard Power subsidiary to the town marked the 10-year anniversary of the development of the solar array, Bill Lake of the Aquinnah energy and climate committee told The Times. 

Per an agreement with Vineyard Power and the project’s investors, the Moncton family, the town had the option to take over the array at the 10-year mark.

“For most of that 10-year period, the solar array was producing more energy than the town buildings were actually using,” Lake said, which resulted in Aquinnah being able to accumulate excess net metering credits.

Those credits, Lake explained, can be used for the following year, or can be transferred to another public entity. For example, in the past, Aquinnah was able to sell some of those net metering credits to the Vineyard Transit Authority. 

A green community grant awarded to Aquinnah to assist in the conversion from fossil-fuel heating systems to electric heating and water pumps has actually increased the amount of energy the town uses, Lake said, which means that as green initiatives gain more traction, the excess credits are likely to decrease. 

Developed by Vineyard Power and installed by South Mountain Co. in 2012, following their bid submission in response to the town’s request for proposals in 2011, Aquinnah’s solar photovoltaic system sits on the town’s one-acre capped landfill — one of the first of its kind in the state. Aquinnah’s system is one of four solar projects on the Island made possible by Vineyard Power, including a 530-panel, 100-kilowatt array at the Chilmark landfill. 

Per the town’s statement, the initial development of the array was made possible through funding from the Moncton family, who then helped with the array’s transfer of ownership to the town. 

In a letter written to the family, the Aquinnah select board expressed their gratitude on behalf of the town for the Monctons’ “generosity, vision, and commitment.” 


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