Community-Owned Wind Farms

So the Vineyard has been named as a hot spot again — this time for renewable energy in the form of wind generation. The draft plan under the state Oceans Act has designated two areas west of the Vineyard as places allowed for building commercial wind farms: one on the Sow and Pigs Reef near Cuttyhunk and the other one off Noman’s Land.

The draft plan is a good start in making renewable energy a priority for the commonwealth, but the plan will be subject to much more shaping in the months ahead. Public involvement is imperative — and nowhere more than on the Vineyard where these wind farms will literally be built in our back yard.

One part of the plan that has not received much attention yet is the section on community wind. As it is now written, the plan will allow ten community wind turbines in six regional planning areas, including on Cape Cod, Nantucket and the Vineyard.

And why ten? More needs to be known about the thinking that went into this number by the state lawmakers who created the plan. If the Vineyard built ten turbines that are the same size as the turbines being proposed by Cape Wind, they could generate thirty megawatts of electricity — a good dent but not enough to power the entire Island, which uses about fifty megawatts of electricity in the peak summer months.

So the number ten as applied equally to Cape Cod, Nantucket and the Vineyard appears to be a poor fit: it is more than Nantucket needs, far less than the Cape needs and not quite enough for the Vineyard.

Looking even further down the road, what is needed here is community-owned power generation, whether through a cooperative or some other legal mechanism. Because as one Cuttyhunker put it bluntly in a recent newspaper story, if the Islands, with their rich wind resource, are going to play host to wind farms, they should receive some direct benefit in the form of cheaper electricity.

The deadline for the final plan under the Oceans Act is December 31. Public hearings are scheduled to be held in the fall; the next six months are crucial and Islanders should educate themselves, take time to read the fine print and take an active role in shaping the final version of the plan.

And for those who do not want to wade through hundreds of pages, a summary of the draft plan is posted on the Vineyard Energy Project Web site at

It’s required summer reading.