Editors Vineyard Gazette:
Once again we are reminded that Martha’s Vineyard is indeed an Island. We are a slowly eroding pile of sand, rock and clay surrounded by water. Everything that we need to survive is transported here either by boat or airplane. Except for two things, water and electricity! Now I know Oak Bluffs had a little problem with drinking water and had to resort to importing that for a while. That was a good reminder that we need to be careful and do everything we can to protect our ground and surface waters. And if we do that well, we might not have to import fish and shellfish and we can probably grow a lot of our food if we continue to support our dedicated farming community.
Electricity, not that long ago, was not needed to survive. There might be a few people here who manage to live without it, but I bet even they use some once in awhile. For the rest of us we take it for granted that it will always be there. Most of that gets here by four underwater cables. At least two of those cables are not working and require expensive repairs. And this during peak demand augmented by the recent heat wave. Our electric utility has done an amazing job of keeping our air conditioners humming and our electronic doodads running by seamlessly installing emergency generators in my neighborhood in Oak Bluffs, and perhaps other locations. There has been much discussion about our utility’s other big project, upgrading power poles and lines on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road to improve the reliability of our service. Not so much about the generators. There is a huge burden being borne by anyone living within a mile or so of these generators and this one is not only a visual character issue. I can hear their dull roar as I write this, as I try to sleep, as I walk into town. There are many people who live a lot closer, locals and summer people who, depending on the direction of the wind, are not enjoying another of the Island’s threatened qualities — quiet!
Our regional Island planning and regulatory agency, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, has been asked to hold a discussion about our new, taller, fatter power poles and lines. Granted this discussion will be taking place a bit too late. Maybe though the discussion can and should be expanded to include the overriding issue of energy use and power generation. We need to think sustainability here, folks. It is not the utility’s fault that this is an Island or that we keep demanding more and more electricity. They are just doing their job and trying to do it at rates we can afford.
This is a great opportunity to be self-reflective and look at our own lifestyles and choices. Have we made our homes as energy efficient as possible? Do we really need to set the thermostat at 72 degrees or even lower in the summer? Maybe we could turn off a few lights or install more efficient bulbs. I could talk about houses that really don’t need to be that big, but we had that discussion earlier this year. Then we have the power generation issue. How is our power usually generated when our underwater extension cords are working? Coal, oil, gas, nuclear, wind or solar or diesel like the generators in Oak Bluffs?
Somebody, if it isn’t my neighborhood in Oak Bluffs, is bearing some burden from our electricity being generated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So it all boils down to choices, and we do have choices. Energy efficiency and clean renewable energy have got to be on the table here. Our own Vineyard Power electric cooperative is working hard to help us here. If you haven’t become a member and supporter, please do so. Check out their website and annual meeting this weekend. If you haven’t had a free energy audit, sign up for one. Check out the Cape Light Compact’s website or call 1-800-797-6699; each Island town is a member and entitled to many free services. Educate yourself about wind and solar. Consider having your own solar panels installed.
The MVC hearing to discuss power poles and I hope all things energy will be on Thursday, August 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Olde Stone Building on New York avenue in Oak Bluffs. Listen to the generators as you drive down County Road past the highway barn on your way to the meeting. Let’s not blame NStar, but figure out how we can live more sustainably on our fragile Island, be less prone to power outages, maybe even save some money and reduce our own carbon footprint and perhaps help to slow sea level rise, which just might be the Vineyard’s biggest threat.
Richard Toole, Oak Bluffs