A proposal by the Chilmark planning board to require solar thermal heating for swimming pools is an example of a small but meaningful step to make the Vineyard more energy self-sufficient.

The idea also reflects a quiet yet crucial change in pursuing that worthy goal: shifting the self-sufficiency initiative from broad goals outlined by the Vineyard Energy Project to the nitty-gritty of adoption and enforcement of particular measures by individual Island towns.

After hearing a presentation from Vineyard Energy Project director Kate Warner about draft energy use guidelines, Chilmark planning board members explored immediate steps to conserve energy. Heating for outdoor pools was a good place to start.

As board member William Meegan said, “It’s a luxury to heat your swimming pool; no one’s forcing you to do it. It’s a huge waste of resource.”

The end result is a proposed bylaw that would require use of solar thermal systems to use the sun’s energy to warm pool water. Island pool owners already are finding that these systems not only are effective, but can repay their investment within a year.

The bylaw will be aired at a public hearing on September tenth and is then hopefully headed for the next special town meeting warrant.

Not all energy-saving steps will be as relatively painless as solar thermal heating for pools, which addresses a luxury home amenity. But as small steps like this accumulate, the day when the entire Island becomes an energy producer rather than consumer may be closer than Vineyarders think.