WPI NANTUCKET PROJECT CENTER
In 2011, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) established a project center on Nantucket, where student teams pursue in-depth research that affect our island community. Since then, the Energy Office has co-sponsored a yearly study in island energy use and conservation.
2016 Research Project:
Evaluating the Viability of Electric Vehicles on Nantucket
2015 Research Project:
Energy Awareness, Attitudes, and Alliances
- Recommend ways to increase public awareness and participation in energy efficiency programs, including the role of a community “Sustainability Hub”
- Identify areas where the public’s knowledge of local energy issues and programs exists and where more education is needed
- Identify relevant “lessons learned” from the city of Worcester’s experience with smart grid, demand response, and energy efficient technologies
- Determine the attitudes of the Nantucket population towards various energy saving programs and technologies, and compare these sentiments against those of certain Worcester residents, where appropriate and useful
- Identify and initiate relationships with local stakeholders (individuals and organizations) who can support the goals of the Town Energy Office and National Grid
In recent years, Nantucket’s demand for electricity has increased significantly. On July 23 2013, Nantucket’s energy usage hit an all-time high: 45 MW, a 12.5% increase from the previous record high of 40MW in 2012. National Grid, the island’s sole electric utility, has determined that Nantucket’s demand for electricity is growing more than five times the Massachusetts state average. As a result, there is a growing concern about the need for additional, costly and disruptive infrastructure--namely a 3rd undersea transmission cable, which may come at a tremendous expense to Nantucket ratepayers.
Nantucket residents and businesses pay some of the most expensive energy prices in the country. Not only are National Grid’s basic supply charges subject to extreme price volatility (e.g. Nantucket residential supply rates nearly doubled during the winter of 2014-2015), but Nantucket ratepayers are also subject to monthly electric bill surcharges:
- A “Cable Facility Surcharge” that funds the existing two undersea cables, (Summer: 2.190¢ per kWh/ Winter 1.254¢ per kWh); and an
- Energy Efficiency Charge (1.004¢ per kWh), to fund the Mass Save program, which equates to about 1.46 Million dollars/year from Nantucket ratepayers. Currently, Nantucket is only receiving 17% back of this funding for energy efficiency investments.
While the reality of the need for a 3rd cable on Nantucket is still uncertain, there is much that can be done to reduce electricity costs and improve the overall energy efficiency of the island’s residences and businesses. Not only is the Town investigating Municipal Aggregation to potentially reduce electric rates, but has teamed up with National Grid on a special 5-year “Non-Wires Alternative” (NWA) pilot project to investigate whether customer-side technologies can be implemented in a targeted way to achieve sustainable load reductions, possibly reducing the amount of backup diesel generation needed and potentially deferring any future plans to construct a 3rd cable. The Project was launched in 2015, with the initial phase focusing on a set of “exclusive” energy efficiency incentives for Nantucket customers.
PAST RESEARCH PROJECTS:
2014 Research Project:
"Decorative Streetlamp Inventory & LED Pilot Project"
Throughout the year, concerned residents and business owners will frequently report non-functioning streetlamps to the Town via phone calls, emails and the SeeClickFix App. However, when streetlamps are reported as non-functioning, the process to trouble shoot and eventually fix the streetlamps is complicated and inefficient. Currently, under the S-3 Option B tariff, National Grid is obligated to troubleshoot and replace the streetlamp photocell sensor and bulb and to test that power is present at the base of the streetlamp. All other repair work is assigned to Ryder Electric (Town’s contracted electrician). However, at this time, neither National Grid nor Ryder Electric is consistently communicating to the Town of Nantucket about key details about the repair work performed at each streetlamp, and as a result, many streetlights have yet to be fixed.
When the streetlamps are fully operational, they emit a warm diffused light that many would agree enhances the aesthetic appeal of the surroundings; evoking the sense of an earlier era. However, faced with rising electricity costs, the frequent tendency for lamps to “go dark,” and a civic duty to help reduce Nantucket’s peak electricity load*, the Town of Nantucket would like to further investigate the social and economic feasibility of an LED conversion project.
As is the case with any community-wide project, an LED retrofit project should provide an opportunity for public input. Installation of demonstration sites and photo documentation of individual lights before and after changing to LEDs may help to answer residents’ questions and illustrate the benefits of the new technology, such as: reduced maintenance costs, decreased light pollution, decreased light trespass, and enhanced visibility and performance.
2013 Research Project:
Utilizing Mass Energy Insight (MEI) & Assessing Town Employee Attitudes Toward Energy Conservation
Lauren Sinatra; Energy Project & Outreach Coordinator
Final Reports & Findings:
The purpose of this project is to assist the Nantucket Energy Office in promoting responsible energy usage on the island of Nantucket by tracking and measuring the energy consumption trends of Town departments. With the help of the MassEnergyInsight tool, our team will analyze liquid fuel and electricity use by municipal facilities to track consumption trends, identify instances of efficiency and inefficiency, and generate reports, graphs and other informational visuals that can be used to inform municipal employees about their energy use.
We will also conduct on-site interviews to assess town employees’ attitudes towards energy conservation. From this, our team will make recommendations to the Nantucket Energy Office and other town department heads on how to best rectify instances of inefficient energy use by Town employees.
2012: Evaluation of Nantucket's Mass Save Program
Project Advisor: Lauren Sinatra; Energy Project & Outreach Coordinator
- WPI Student Research Team completes final report "Evaluation of the Awareness & Effectiveness of the Mass Save program on Nantucket!" CLICK HERE to read about their interesting findings.