Solar Progress

Cape Cod’s unique geographical position provides not only a beautiful setting for artists, vacationers and residents, but also a particularly good location for solar energy production. Why? Because our solar panels operate more efficiently when they’re cool; and thanks to the cool ocean breeze, our sunny days are extremely productive. How then can we as a community be in a position to capitalize on our location? Not only does Cape Cod have a great solar resource, but Cape Cod has great people (also known as intellectual capital). By combining the region’s rich technical, environmental, and financial expertise, Cape Cod has become a mecca of solar development on the East Coast.  In the image below created by the University of Central Florida, it is clear that Massachusetts and more specifically Cape Cod, boasts solar electric capacity equal to that of central Texas, Florida and Northern California.

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Electrical energy in the Northeast is expensive; get on-Cape and it doesn’t get any cheaper. To understand this we must look at our current energy system.

First, almost all of our power is generated off-Cape. The Mirant Canal Power Plant in Sandwich, according to ISO-NE in a Gatehouse News Service article, could in the future be operable for only 42 days a year with the potential of full closure. This highly inefficient back-up plant is costly to run and a complete money sink while being kept idle (wasteful maintenance).

Second, Cape Cod also lacks the proper electricity delivery system. Much of our electricity therefore becomes more expensive because it must travel great distances to reach us, losing efficiency as it travels and demanding more infrastructure cost. This is an expensive problem.

Finally, as a vacation and summer destination, Cape Cod is also a unique consumer of energy. As our region goes through wild swings in population seasonally, its electricity demand is even more extreme. From a smaller year-round population to a larger summer population (when energy use is already at its highest) the grid must be equipped for higher capacity–adding yet another expense to our energy bill.

Because of these steep electricity costs and our natural solar resource, generating solar electricity on the Cape is more advantageous than quite possibly anywhere else in the continental United States.