On first glimpse, through the trees along Northern Pines Road in Vineyard Haven, the new building might be taken for an incongruously placed sports grandstand.

It’s a huge inclined rectangle, propped on poles, eight feet off the ground at the front, 28 feet at the back, looking out across a pretty green field.

But it’s not a grandstand, and its orientation has nothing to do with the view. It is so placed to catch maximum sunlight, and its entire 5,000-square-foot surface is covered in vitreous black panels. It’s a solar array. And a barn. And the shape of things to come as the alternative energy push shifts focus on the Island from wind power to sun power.

No, solar is not the whole answer to the Vineyard’s alternative energy future. There is just not enough sun here; wind power, offshore wind power in particular, remains the big prospect for the future.

But solar, for now, is where the action is.

Two Island towns, Tisbury and Edgartown, now are well advanced with plans to install their own solar arrays to provide municipal power. Two others, Chilmark and Aquinnah, are not far behind, having just approved town meeting warrant articles to explore the prospects of solar arrays on their former landfills.

There are moves to put an array in at the airport; and the Grey Barn Farm on South Road in Chilmark has just completed the Island’s largest alternative energy system of any type — a 92-kilowatt solar system, installed by the South Mountain Company.

And now, this one on John and Janet Packer’s Northern Pines Farm, which will generate 75 kilowatts. Under a deal brokered by the Island’s energy cooperative, Vineyard Power, the electricity it produces will be bought by Cronig’s Market.

The Packers and Vineyard Power already are exploring the possibilities of another array at the farm.

Compared with the glacial pace at which plans for large-scale wind projects are proceeding, it’s all happening very fast. And for several reasons.

First, there is now strong pushback against land-based turbines, particularly in densely settled areas like New England. Many people have begun complaining about the noise they make, the flicker of light from their blades, their alleged threat to wildlife. And, above all, they object to the aesthetics of the huge structures.

So far at least, solar installations are generally more acceptable.

Second, solar generation has recently become economically viable, due to a variety of state and federal incentives.

Third, solar is much easier to do.

“It’s a very technologically challenging thing to do, building huge towers, 15 miles offshore in a fairly rough environment,” said Richard Andre, president of Vineyard Power, which is engaged in a plan to bid on an offshore wind lease. “With solar we can get it done quicker. Permitting is easier. The technology is easier,” he said.

The history of the Northern Pines project exemplifies this. It sprouted like a mushroom in just a few months.

Mr. Packer had previously intended to put up a wind turbine on the site. But the logistics grew complicated and there were objections from neighbors.

“We tried it, and got beat up a bit,” said Mr. Packer, “and I had kind of pulled back from the alternative energy game a little bit.”

Then last year, he happened to be talking to a friend in Plymouth who had applied for a grant under the federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but found his project, a golf course, was ineligible.

“So I was just chatting with him on the phone, and he said, do you want to do one?”

The friend put Mr. Packer in touch with Cotuit Solar, which had done his grant application. They rushed the application through in two days. “We just did a handshake with them, that if they did the application, they could do the project,” said Mr. Packer. “I would have liked to use Island people, but you have to be fair, and it all happened very quickly. It was like, wow, here we go.”

There were no permitting issues.

“By Massachusetts law, I could build a 42-acre barn out here if I wanted to,” Mr. Packer said.

Nonetheless, mindful of the neighbors, he kept the array’s height below the 35-foot limit for the area and met zoning setbacks. Mr. Packer, an engineer by training, did much of the design work himself, with the help of Island engineer Kent Healy. When it came to construction, he used a lot of recycled materials.

“Being in the dock-building business, pilings are something we know a lot about; we recycled some from the old Vineyard Haven drawbridge,” he said, pointing to the massive pressure-treated poles which support the structure. “The boards here around the bottom are from the burned-up Menemsha Dock. This chain link fence is from the drawbridge.”

Less than a year after that initial telephone conversation, on March 15 the array was done. This week, NStar connected the net metering equipment, but has yet to finish the work for final connection to the grid. Mr. Packer still must finish putting the siding on three sides of the structure and then he will have a finished barn, ready for his pigs.

For now, he has little use himself for the power he will generate, although eventually he would like to have a refrigeration plant. But that depends on another work in progress — the push for an Island slaughterhouse, which will allow him to ramp up production.

“The real thrust here was to make a model that I’d love to see other people consider,” Mr. Packer said. “We were looking at ground-mount arrays, but it’s hard to farm around them. You know, the cows or the pigs get out and it’s busted. And it takes up good farmland.

“So I thought we could make it one big array with the low end eight feet off the ground. What we’ve done is we’ve built a solar array without losing the value of our farmland. We’ve actually enhanced it.”

All at a cost of “not much” he said, other than time and some building materials. Federal stimulus money underwrote the project, as it did with the Grey Barn construction. “And Cotuit Solar came up with some investors, who will own the panels for the first 10 years, then they turn the system over to us. In the meantime, I got a barn,” he said, adding: “There’s so much in it for these investors. There’s a plethora of tax advantages. There’s 100 per cent depreciation in the first year for this year only.”

The tax advantages are what really is driving the solar power gold rush.

The state’s Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), Mr. Andre said, must be purchased by utilities, and the state has underwritten them. “The price is about 30 cents per kilowatt hour. The current price of electricity is less than a third of that, but the state has placed a high value for the sole purpose of incentivizing solar,” he said.

Factor in federal tax credits which are available for solar projects, and solar becomes more than viable.

“The state has set a target of generating 400 megawatts, total from solar. The expectation is that target will be reached in a couple of years. And then the money runs out,” Mr. Andre said. “So there is a race on to put these up.”

Rob Myers, the energy services manager at South Mountain, underlined the point while relating his experience at a recent solar energy conference in Philadelphia.

“At those conferences, you used to see a lot of tie-dyed shirts and Birkenstocks. Now there are a lot of navy suits and red ties and wing tips. When you see the lawyers, accountants and financiers coming out, it just shows the market is mature,” he said.

The state’s SRECs scheme is a large factor driving the boom, he conceded, “but it’s really a convergence of several factors that are spiking it here in Massachusetts. The fact that the state rebate of 75 cents per watt for installing residential systems is still available is one. The fact that we now have annualized net metering at near retail rates is another. So surplus production is now credited at almost the same rate as you pay. A few years ago, we were paying 21 cents for our electricity, but the credit rate was only six cents.”

Now it’s nearly three times that.

He detailed another change: “A few years ago, the federal tax credit was capped at $2,000 for the cost of your installation. Now it’s uncapped, so you can get a federal tax credit for 30 per cent of the total cost.”

The details of the various incentives are complicated, but the net effect, Mr. Myers believes, will be big. The Northeast is now the fastest-growing area in the nation for new solar projects, which is why the conference was in Philadelphia, rather than somewhere in the sunny Southwest.

“A year from now, I think Massachusetts will rival New Jersey as the second biggest state for solar, after California,” said Mr. Myers.

On the Island, town government has been quick out of the box, with Tisbury and Edgartown in the lead. Through the Cape and Vineyard Energy Cooperative, an affiliate of the Cape Light Compact, they have committed to installing ground-mount solar arrays. Edgartown plans almost 4.5 megawatts of generating capacity, spread among three sites.

Collectively, they are expected to generate savings of $280,000 in the first full year, and $5.5 million over the 20-year minimum life of the project.

The Tisbury project, at the town’s old capped landfill, is smaller — 1.06 megawatts — and would generate savings of $66,000 a year, or $1.3 million over the project’s life.

Plans are less advanced for smaller installations in Chilmark and Aquinnah.

Vineyard Power, and their installation contractor, South Mountain, are bidding on those and are planning a couple of others, including a potential development at the airport, and another array on Northern Pines Farm.

As he surveyed the new array on his farm this week, Mr. Packer was pleased with what he saw. “It’s interesting that the panels aren’t terribly reflective. They’re like the water; they change with the color of the sky. It’s not like this hideous silver thing out in the middle of the field,” he said.

He quoted his son, Nathaniel, age 12: “We’re saving the world, one solar barn at a time.”