West Tisbury selectmen will continue to explore options regarding development of the town’s planned solar array at the landfill. Town counsel Ronald Rappaport appeared at Wednesday’s board of selectmen meeting to discuss the matter, reporting that the Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) had amended the contract he and associate Fain Hackney negotiated in December of last year. The original project lender had withdrawn, and CVEC had found a new lender, Deutsche Bank.
None of the changes in themselves had any effect on the town, Mr. Rappaport said. But because the contract had been revised, the deadline for signing it had been changed to April 30.
“[The extension] gives the board time to step back and see if you’re interested in other alternatives,” Mr. Rappaport said.
“Something that hasn’t been mentioned [yet] is that there’s sentiment among some that a local project would be better for us,” selectmen chair Cynthia Mitchell said. Since the town first embarked on the solar array project, she said the town of Aquinnah had successfully completed a locally-financed and developed solar array of its own.
That project, developed by Vineyard Power, with funding from Vineyard summer residents Lee and Julie Moncton and the Edgartown National Bank and built by South Mountain Company, will save an estimated 10 per cent in actual electricity costs per year through tax credits and renting the landfill to Vineyard Power. If the town exercises an option to buy the panels at the end of 10 years, its electricity costs will, for the most part, disappear. By contrast, the current West Tisbury agreement would require the town to enter into a 20-year agreement to provide 10 per cent of the power it generates to the CVEC for its distribution and profit. The town would be able to sell the balance of the power it does not use.
“I think the local sentiment is if it can happen there, why can’t it happen here in West Tisbury?”, Mrs. Mitchell said, acknowledging that the Aquinnah array is smaller than that planned for West Tisbury.
Selectman Richard Knabel said that another factor was the previous withdrawal of the West Tisbury School from the CVEC arrangement with the town. The withdrawal, school committee chair Dan Cabot said at the meeting, was due to concerns that Broadway Electric would not be able to follow through and that the length of time the project would be CVEC-owned (20 years) was overly long.
“This new information today from Deutsche Bank . . . might solve some of the problem,” Mr. Cabot said.
Mr. Knabel raised the issue of West Tisbury itself breaking away from CVEC, but Mrs. Mitchell said the concern at the moment was just to investigate new developer options.
“I think we can only compare to where we are now,” she said. “We have a contract that we have voted to sign . . . we’re giving ourselves the opportunity because they took their time getting it to us.”
A local project could give the town a better deal overall, Mrs. Mitchell said. “We need to take a look at it.”
In other business, the board appointed Nate Morgan to the West Tisbury Conservation Committee, and approved a free concert to be held at the Grange Hall on May 22. The concert will feature Jemima James and Friends and Good Night Louise.