The fate of two major solar projects on the Vineyard is uncertain following the news this week that the contractor hired to build the arrays is going out of business.
Broadway Electrical Co. Inc., based in Boston, will shutter its business operation, a spokesman for the Cape and Vineyard Electrical Cooperative (CVEC), confirmed yesterday.
“On Jan. 14 . . . [CVEC] became aware of rumors circulating about Broadway Electrical Inc. and its future. CVEC promptly contacted Broadway who has confirmed that it is winding down its operations,” CVEC special projects coordinator Liz Argo said in a statement emailed to the Gazette Thursday.
Representatives from Broadway Electrical could not be reached for comment. An exact time line for when the company will close is not known.
The company is under contract to build solar arrays in both Tisbury and West Tisbury, along with a number of towns on the Cape.
An energy cooperative affiliated with the Cape Light Compact, CVEC was founded in 2007 to oversee renewable energy projects on the Cape and Vineyard. Four of CVEC’s 20 members are Island towns — Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury. Dukes County is also a member.
The first round of solar projects began in November on eight sites on the Vineyard and the Cape.
Two of those sites are on the Vineyard, at the Farm Institute in Katama and at the Tisbury capped landfill.
Construction is underway at both sites and is expected to be completed by June.
The round one projects saw delays, as CVEC and contractor American Capital Energy worked to secure building permits and hook up to the NStar grid. In Tisbury, groundbreaking took place more than two years after the initial contract was signed with CVEC.
CVEC issued a request for proposals for round two in September 2011. The contract was awarded to Broadway Electrical in April 2012. In its annual report for fiscal year 2013, prepared in September, CVEC noted that Broadway “anticipates the initiation of construction for round two in fall 2013.”
The initial round two request for proposals consisted of 69 megawatts of energy production at 105 sites, including several at locations in Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury. That was narrowed down to just over 20 megawatts, produced by 22 sites. The 22 sites include the West Tisbury capped landfill and the Tisbury town compost pile, but not Oak Bluffs. The West Tisbury project was proposed at 883 kilowatts. The Tisbury array is much smaller at 63 kilowatts.
West Tisbury town administrator Jen Rand said Broadway had applied for a building permit for the site and that a public hearing is scheduled for next week to connect the site to the grid with NStar.
“So it’s in process,” she said.
The Tisbury project is also in the permitting process. Construction has begun on five other round two projects on the Cape, and is nearing completion at two others, Ms. Argo said.
Reached by telephone Thursday, she expressed confidence in the outcome despite the fact that the contractor is going out of business.
“We are optimistic and we’ll continue to protect both the projects and the CVEC members,” Ms. Argo said. She said company president John Checklick and vice president Charles McLaughlin began meeting with Broadway last week about the next steps, and that agreements allow for the transfer of projects to Broadway’s financial backers, G&S Solar Installers Inc. and RNK Capital LLC.
The optimism was not shared by Richard Knabel, chairman of the West Tisbury selectmen and a longstanding skeptic about the CVEC operation.
“I’m upset about it,” Mr. Knabel said, referring to the news that Broadway Electrical is going out of business. “In every instance when something happens, CVEC has not told the towns and it comes out of the blue. Of course it raises the question whether this project is ever going to happen,” he added.
He said the town has not heard from Broadway Electrical but received a statement from Ms. Argo at CVEC similar to the one emailed to the Gazette. Mr. Knabel said he first learned of the problem through media outlets.
“To what extent was this known in advance, did CVEC know it was about to happen? We don’t know,” the selectman said. “All I know is we’ve always been kept in the dark about these problems.”
Mr. Knabel said the project needs to be finished by June 30 in order to qualify for state energy credits.
“Should they default on that, the whole deal collapses, I believe,” he said.
Ms. Argo said the goal is to transfer project development to G&S Solar Installers and RNK Capital as soon as possible in order to meet the June deadline. The Massachusetts Solar Carve-Out Program was established in 2010 to develop 400 megawatts of solar photovoltaic projects across the commonwealth. The program offers tax credits to eligible projects.
“Ultimately, we just don’t know exactly how it’s all going to work out,” Ms. Argo said.
Ms. Rand said her town has little control over the outcome. “My hope is that it transitions to someone else and [the project] goes charging forward,” she said.
Remy Tumin contributed reporting.