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Vineyard Energy Project (Massachusetts, USA)

Martha's Vineyard Non-Profit Developing Community-Owned Clean Energy

The Vineyard Energy Project (VEP) is a non-profit corporation, founded in 2003, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts. The VEP was established to provide education and advocacy for renewable energy and energy efficiency on the island.

Its mission is to:
- Provide energy education assistance to the Martha's Vineyard school system.
- Encourage communication, dialogue and cooperation between all energy-focused organizations on the island. They believe that any long term solution to our energy crisis must be cooperative and island-wide.
- Support and advocate for energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts on the island.
- Develop a large scale community owned renewable energy cooperative.

Our Greatest Resource is the Wind
Most of the island has a good wind resource. Some spots are better than others, but wind generation is possible almost anywhere on the Vineyard. In addition, the waters off the Cape and Islands possess the highest winds on the U.S. east coast and have particularly good potential for offshore wind generation. Wind energy is the fastest growing world energy source and provides an emission-free, renewable, and cost competitive source of electricity. With rising societal costs of conventional fuel sources, wind turbines of all scales hold the promise of providing a significant portion of the Vineyard’s energy needs in a clean, renewable, and cost-effective manner.

Following are excerpts from the Island Energy (and Waste) Plan:

- By 2015, 5% of the island's electricity will be generated from solar or wind; 30% of the Island’s heating to be produced from renewables.
- By 2025, 25% of the island's electricity is generated on the island or directly offshore from renewable sources, and 75% of the Island’s heating to be from renewable sources.
- By 2050, the island produces 65% of our transportation energy and, with excess renewable electricity generation sold off-Island, we are offsetting 90% of our remaining carbon emissions, making us almost carbon-neutral.

OBJECTIVE 1: Maximize the potential for Large-Scale generation to meet our targets and to benefit the island as a whole. Large-scale generation is needed if we are to meet our increasing needs for: electricity, heating and cooling and, transportation fuels. The simple fact is that our energy demands far exceed the energy generation capabilities of current on-site generation technologies. On-site generation of electricity and other energy can provide a good amount of energy for the island but there are many individual sites that are not well suited for solar, wind or other renewable energy systems.
- STRATEGIES 1.1 Prepare island maps to designate best sites for clustering large-scale wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels: • coordinate with town planning boards, utility company and Vineyard conservation groups. • gain island-wide approval for designated sites. • work with utility company to prepare for upgrades to electrical infrastructure to accommodate. 1.2 Increase public understanding of need for local energy generation with continued and expanded adult education and outreach efforts and school education programs.

OBJECTIVE 2: Develop capacity to encourage and support the development and installation of renewable energy generation.

OBJECTIVE 3: Maximize potential for On-Site generation of energy Generating energy on-site is an effective strategy as it eliminates transmission losses and reduces the size of the generation facility, which can reduce concerns about visibility. All sites should be thought of as potential energy generation locations. Solar electric and wind systems can generate power for the island year-round whether or not the buildings they are associated with are occupied. Solar hot water is particularly beneficial for buildings that are occupied year-round and for sites with high hot water demand.
- STRATEGIES 3.1 Use mapping and other technologies to identify sites with advantageous access to renewable energy sources, including existing, un-shaded, south-facing roofs or ground area; areas with a particularly good wind resource and areas with soil suitable for geothermal installations. 3.2 Prepare list of individual sites and developments that would benefit most from wind energy generation from a load perspective and where wind resource is good-- with consideration of proximity to grid, town zoning and airport regulations and other site factors.

The Vineyard’s Wind History
Wind is part of our regional heritage. In the 1700's wind was used throughout Cape Cod & the Vineyard. Windmills had a dramatic landscape presence as there were few trees in those days. Early on wind energy was used for pumping seawater into evaporative ponds to produce salt. It also powered gristmills. One was at Manter Hill in Tisbury, built by Lothrop Merry, in 1795. There was another in Edgartown near the old school, and part of one still exists at Captain Flanders House in Chilmark. There were many water pumping windmills in the 1800's and early 1900's. In recent times windmills all but disappeared until the energy crisis of the mid-1970s, when interest in renewable energy fueled a resurgence of electricity-producing turbines. The Energy Resource Group prepared model zoning by-laws, brought them to the towns, and they were enacted. By the late '70s there were more than a dozen on the Vineyard, from Com Electric's "eggbeater" at the Tisbury landfill to the first-generation Enertech turbine at the Allen Farm in Chilmark. Now a new generation of effective, affordable, quiet turbines are available.