To honor Earth day this year, SunPower, the manufacturer of the solar panels we install, decided to do a campaign about South Mountain here on the Vineyard. They put a ton of effort into this. They spent time here with us last Fall, did several videos and photo shoots, and wrote extensively about our company and our work. We’re honored by their decision to feature us, and we appreciate their beautiful work. We also appreciate our relationship with SunPower, an American company that makes the best solar panels in the world. If you’d like to see what they’re up to with this, click here.
From Landfill to Power Plant
Mostly, capped landfills remind me of the mausoleums of a consumer society. For most of a century we dumped our solid waste onto these Mt Trashmores and mixed up a brew of concentrated toxins which seeped into the surrounding areas and often polluted (and still do) our water. So we learned to treat our waste as a resource, close the landfills, cap them, and leave them idle. We’re still very primitive about this, but progress is steady.
There’s not much you can do on a capped landfill because it’s essential that we not disturb the protective rubber liner that is usually only 12-18” below the grass that covers it.
But there are some uses. Most are relatively passive: cultivation of hay, green space, wildlife habitat, and biking/walking/running trails. Some are more active: golf courses, baseball fields, and soccer fields.
25 In 2012 . . . And Rising
On the first day of this new year, South Mountain began its 25th year as an employee owned company (and its 38th year in business). It was on January 1, 1987 that we converted from a sole proprietorship in my ownership to a democratically owned worker co-operative. As I’ve so often said, it was a hinge point in the history of the company.
When I started South Mountain in 1975 I was 25. Now there’s a group of us in our sixties who will gradually retire during the coming decades (starting with Mike Drezner at the end of this year) and a collection of new, younger owners poised to lead SMCo in to its 2nd generation, and beyond. My personal goal: to still be going strong in 2025, when SMCo turns 50 and I’m 75.
Where Will All The Solar Go?
This was published as an op-ed today in the Vineyard Gazette.
Wind turbines get all the negative ink. Noise, vibration, flicker, interruption of beloved views. Big troublemakers, aren’t they?
Solar panels, on the other hand, are considered to be quite benign. The Nantucket Historic District Commission doesn’t like them much, and some people would rather see roofs without them, but by and large they have come to be widely accepted.
But what about when we scale them up with considerably larger installations that can make a meaningful contribution to our energy supply? Are they really so benign?
Large Scale PV On MV
Stanford Ovshinsky, one of the great thinkers of our time, is 88 years old and starting a new business. “His audacious goal,” according to an article by Laurence Fisher in Strategy + Business Magazine, “is to drive the unsubsidized cost of solar power below that of coal – to create, in effect, a Moore’s law for energy.”
There’s no reason to doubt he can do it.
I had to take a break from writing, and haven’t said a word since March 18th – too much on my plate. Business is challenging at SMCo right now, but all is well, projects are good, everyone’s busy, and we’re all in it together, working hard to keep working.
But the Cape Wind announcement in Boston last Wednesday took my mind off that and inspired me to get back to this.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said a lot about Cape Wind. But the best thing he said was, quite simply, “This is the final decision of the United States of America.” Final Decision. Good decision, great decision, unequivocal decision – by the United States of America! How rare is that?
Here Comes the Island Plan
The Island Plan is complete.
Four years in the making, this long-term plan for the future of Martha’s Vineyard, initiated by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, engaged hundreds of people in the collaborative process of its production. To quote from the plan: “ The purpose of the Island Plan is to chart a course to the kind of future the Vineyard community wants, and to outline a series of actions to help us navigate that course. The Island Plan is both a blueprint and a call to action.”
I served on the Steering Committee and chaired one of the nine work groups – Livelihood & Commerce (the others are Development & Growth, Natural Environment, the Built Environment, Energy & Waste, Affordable Housing, Transportation, Water Resources, and Social Environment).
I spent more time working on the plan than I wished to and less time than I should have.
Windtrigue on the Vineyard
While the eyes of the world focus on Copenhagen, here at home on Martha’s Vineyard wind energy has been receiving a mighty dose of attention – more than ever before. Are we making progress? Maybe some. You be the judge.
Wind has been in the local news in four distinctly different regards at once: the release and reaction to the draft Massachusetts Oceans Management Plan, the public coming-out of a new organization called Vineyard Power, the continuing saga of Cape Wind, and the adoption of a new wind by-law in Aquinnah.
Before diving in, some context might be useful.