Introducing the ACK Smart Advisory Board
The changing of the seasons on Nantucket elicits more of a shift than is typically found elsewhere. For islanders, it isn't just leaves changing from green to the rich hues of autumn, or the air losing its weight to make way for the crisp and brisk chill of morning fog. On Nantucket the transition from summer to fall brings with it a proverbial exhale; our summer craziness comes to close, our streets become significantly less populated, and we shift into what can only be described as a comfortable first gear.
Fall offers the enjoyable opportunity to reflect on the peak season-passed, and look forward to the months of planning ahead. For ACK Smart Energy, our summer was spent connecting with seasonal clients, completing some of our most exciting and impressive installations to date, and closing out our most successful quarter in company history. And however exciting and accomplished these things are, the most notable part of this busy season was the acquisition of three very exciting new team members into the first ACK Smart Advisory Board. An impressive assemblage of business, educational, legal, and renewable energy experience, the three members of the board are as knowledgeable about Nantucket itself as they are their various professional fields. We are proud to introduce Gary Vogel of Eagle Bulk Shipping, Samuel A. Flax of Georgetown Law, and William M. Moore of Hudson Energy Development. These three men combined have over 100 years of professional experience, nearly ten degrees from some of the world's most renowned institutions, and a love for the Grey Lady that was essential in their selection.
A New Yorker transplanted to Connecticut 30 years ago, Gary Vogel's connection to ACK Smart occurred rather organically. Despite being friends and neighbors with our Director of Operations Tim Carruthers, Vogel first heard about ACK Smart several years prior to him and Tim's meeting.
"The first time I heard about ACK Smart, they had a display downtown in the Stop n' Shop parking lot," Vogel recalled. The former sunflower solar tracker was a frequent fixture at various town locations, and caught Vogel's eye, perhaps because he himself has utilized solar at his Connecticut property since 2007. "Fairly early, in terms of adopting solar," Vogel said. "I use solar for electric generation, basically to try and offset some of my grid consumption. It's about substance to me, it's not about saying you're doing it. It's trying to actually move the needle in a meaningful way."
Vogel's connection to Nantucket began several decades ago with small vacation stints before eventually purchasing a property in Sconset. "I ended up building a house, ended up meeting Tim and it was just kind of evolutionary," he said.
Serving as the CEO for Eagle Bulk Shipping, Vogel brings a unique combination of tremendous business and personal solar experiences to the ACK Advisory Board. The decision to join, he says, was purely a sensible one.
"I love the island and I have business experience, not in solar, but in managing organizations and larger businesses. So, when Tim asked me I thought if I could add value in that discussion then I would be happy to put a bit of time into it," he said. "It's pretty straight forward, as far as I'm concerned - I'm trying to assist and move the ball down the field."
Having installed solar on his personal property almost fifteen years ago, Vogel understands the benefits, the process, and the impact of making the solar switch, and finds that it's something Nantucket can and should continue to benefit from until maximum impact is achieved.
"In an island where energy is imported by cable, in an environment where its energy use is going up, based primarily on the growth of the building of the island, finding a green solution, a zero-emission solution to energy production is obviously a positive, and you could argue it's even a no-brainer," Vogel said. "Anything we can do to reduce the carbon footprint of the island and reliance on imported electricity that's not green, I think makes a lot of sense. I think ACK Smart is in a perfect position given the experience and given the people's knowledge and history of the island, they're in the perfect position to be the leaders in helping to drive that."
We look forward to seeing where your leadership guidance will take us, Gary!
The ACK Smart Advisory Board's Sam Flax comes to the team from Chevy Chase, MD where he now teaches at Georgetown Law, after many years as a practicing lawyer and financial executive. Sam originally became familiar with Nantucket Island through his wife's connection to the Northeast.
"We started going [to Nantucket] many years ago," Sam said. "My wife had gone to college and law school in New England and she said 'We ought to go there one weekend,' and we did! I think she was pregnant with our second [child], who is now 26, so, it was long ago."
What began as a couple weeks each summer quickly transitioned into the almost Nantucket-inevitable of looking for a second home. After finally taking the plunge eleven years ago, Sam is now a seasonal island resident with significant ties to the year-round community. Sam serves on the Board of Trustees for the Nantucket Atheneum as treasurer and chairman of the finance committee.
Sam's wife isn't just responsible for his Nantucket connection, but his ACK Smart association as well.
"Several years ago, my wife got to know Tim's wife and we've just gotten to be friends. Tim has talked to me from time to time about [ACK Smart] and then this summer he asked me if I would have any interest in joining the advisory board and I said sure!"
Interestingly enough, Sam's connection to the ACK Smart team goes much further back. Several years ago in the midst of a logistical snag, Tobias Glidden, our Customer Liaison, was referred to Sam by a mutual contact as a local Nantucketer who might be able to assist Sam with a transportation problem.
"Long before his electrical career, we hired Tobias to shuttle our minivan from Nantucket to Chevy Chase. So my first Tobias connection, had nothing to do with ACK Smart."
Fast forward all these years later, Sam and Toby once again find themselves working together to achieve another goal - one of sustainability this time. As an educator, Sam cites the importance of ACK Smart's role in the community as one of teaching the public the benefits of transitioning to renewable resources.
"Sustainability is such a larger issue, and not just a Nantucket issue," Sam said. "I think we all see Nantucket as a victim of its success, as so many of the things we love about it seem to be attracting more and more people. As you attract more people, they build large houses, run air conditioning and heat pools, and we have to worry about the demands on the natural and environmental aspects of Nantucket. ACK Smart can contribute to addressing these issues by reducing our need for carbon and importing fuels. We are helping to preserve and perhaps enhance the island experience."
In addition to morning ambles in the Middle Moors, afternoons at Miacomet Golf Course and Cisco Brewery, and jaunts on the Polpis bike path, Sam looks forward to accomplishing the overall goal of the advisory board, one that he says is focused on helping ACK Smart continue to establish itself and make economic and non-economic contributions to the island.
We are looking forward to everything you will teach us, Sam!
Connections to both Nantucket Island and renewable energies run deep within Bill Moore. Having first drawn an interest in renewable energy back in his high school days at the emergence of the environmental movement, Bill felt a calling to the industry almost instantly.
"I was very much affected by environmental issues as they first unfolded in the 60's," Moore said. "I've always been interested in the economic and financial side of these projects. I worked in the financial side knowing that I wanted to become a developer of these kinds of projects, and you know the rest is kind of history."
As for his connection to the island, Moore's family boasts a link to Nantucket that goes back far before Bill's time. His father's family began coming to the island from Chicago in the 1920's. It was when Bill's mother moved out to the Grey Lady in 1978 that he would join her and launch his interest in residential solar applications.
"One of the first things I came up with was building an addition onto my mother's house near the old wind mill, which I did kind of as a self-taught builder," Moore recalled. "I tried to employ what was known as solar thermal to heat the house as opposed to solar electric. It was an idea that might have been ill-advised, so we didn't get very far with that, but sometime very soon, ACK Smart is going to install a rooftop solar PV on our house in Sconset."
Quite a serendipitous project.
Bill is one of the most experienced renewable energy developers now active in the Northeastern United States. His broad experience in the energy industry, which dates to 1979, encompasses stints as a utility regulatory analyst, a project finance banker, the co-founder of the earliest commercial wind development company to focus on the eastern seaboard, the lead developer of the largest wind energy farm in Eastern North America, CEO of Deepwater Wind during the development of America’s first offshore wind project, and lead developer of the first four utility scale solar projects in South Carolina.
"It's been fun to see how our business has really transitioned from going after larger-scale wind projects to larger-scale solar projects which is happening right across the country," he said. "It's not quite as obvious in the northeast because we never really had too many large-scale wind projects, but large-scale utility projects are going to be built everywhere in this country in just massive numbers over the next several decades."
Despite projects of grand scale and impact that traverse the country, Bill seems to always find a way to relate his work and the impacts of renewable energy utility projects to the future and potential of Nantucket.
"Nantucket has a bunch of land use constraints that will limit that buildout somewhat, but it will still be very significant and nonetheless as we do these residential-scale projects, as ACK Smart does both roof mounted and ground mounted, they'll have a growing impact on how energy gets generated and used on Nantucket which is pretty exciting."
The confluence of Bill's experience in renewable energy resources and his time spent on Nantucket perhaps leaves an opportunity for incongruence when considering the concept of preservation on Nantucket. However, Bill cites the importance of preserving Nantucket to be just the reason the island needs to invest in renewable energy resources as much as possible.
"It should be entirely possible for us to protect Nantucket's architectural heritage while still going solar in a big way," he said. "Solar may not be deployed in the core area of the Historic District, but that leaves 98% of the island suitable for solar deployments of one size or another. I think we all share similar interests, that is the preservation community and the renewable energy community and I believe very strongly in historic preservation. I'm sure we can find a way to make solar applications compatible with traditional designs."
As a member of the Nantucket Preservation Trust, the idea that the two ideas, solar and historic preservation, are symbiotic is something Bill believes aren't mutually exclusive. "We have to look at each project one by one and hopefully we'll be in a position in a year or two with changes to local regulations to make it easier for homeowners to go solar without any unnecessary restrictions. We've got some work to do."
And it's work that no one could be more qualified to lead the island through than Bill himself. His passion to the investment of renewable energies combined with his equalled passion for the island will inspire the ACK Smart team in new ways. We can't wait for you to lead this island into the future of energy production, Bill!