ACK Smart Contributor
Sustainable Nantucket's Posie Constable
"Cultivating, Educating, and Promoting environmentally responsible choices...making a big difference on a small island."
It may come as a surprise that this isn't the mission statement for ACK Smart Energy, but for Sustainable Nantucket. In fact, you could say that the motivation behind both initiatives are nearly identical; Nantucketers working to create an island for the future that maintains all of the treasured aspects of our past.
The work of sustainability on Nantucket is such a passionate and applied narrative, it has become almost commonplace in our daily lives. We can all remember being introduced to what seems like a confusing and exaggerative set of recycling specificities. Eventually locals and visitors alike learn to adapt and the sustainable sorting practice becomes second nature.
It's one of the great benefits of living on this island; collaboration and cooperation to create a better, sustainable Nantucket for generations to come. So when Posie Constable, managing director at Sustainable Nantucket, inquired about a solar installation at her home, it felt like a match made in heaven. If you’re familiar with Posie, you know she’s nothing short of a sustainability guru, and the perfect partner in another solar switch.
We spoke with Posie regarding her vast professional experiences with clean energy, her belief in the initiative of renewable energy sources on Nantucket, and her thoughts on what will drive solar energy into the future.
On her experience with renewable energy…
"I spent 8 years at New York City Energy Efficiency Corp which is the municipal first green bank in the US, so I did nothing but clean energy projects for a living. Not all solar, just a couple we did, were solar. There was no question in my mind that when I finally had the money to build my own house on Nantucket, we designed the house with the hopes that we could get as close to net zero as possible. It’s not going to be net zero but it’s going to be a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) of maybe 12-15 on a scale of 100. I definitely just wanted to make sure I was talking the talk. For all the years I was talking about solar I wanted to finally put it in and use it as a model for explaining why it’s such a good idea."
On her work with Sustainable Nantucket…
"Even though my mission coming on to Sustainable Nantucket was about food, food security, and the whole agricultural aspect, it really is all sort of circular. Sustainable Nantucket is an organization that’s really trying to promote making this island as self-sustainable, self-managing as possible. Whether it’s food, energy, and housing, they’re all sort of tied together. We’ve been lucky to be able to get grants to put solar on two of the buildings out at the farm and we just got a third grant. We got the HDC permission, and the building department permission, to put the solar [array] that Remain Nantucket has funded onto the new building and that’ll be even better."
On the future of solar energy…
"[The challenge is] getting people to understand that being more energy efficient doesn’t mean you have to give up anything, you just have to change your behavior a little bit. And maybe act with greater discretion on how things are done, and just being more careful. Don’t leave lights on, that’s not too much to ask. If you can’t remember to do it, get a meter that does it for you. Have smart meters that tell you how much you’re using and have other houses nearby that you can compare. See how you’re doing relative to your neighbors.
I think the thing that was so fun about doing all of this in New York was that everybody is so competitive. We have this one co-op that put solar in and everybody in the apartment [building], once they got solar on the submitters was publicizing how much better they were doing than their neighbor. Everybody just got into this great sense of ‘Well, how did you do that?’ And then they’d talk about it, and everyone would behave differently. Seeding the notion that energy efficiency and clean energy is all about what you’re giving up is just a complete loser. You can have bigger, but if you’re going to do it, make it smarter."
On Nantucket’s need for a solar switch…
"Everybody is going to bear the load of the cost of another cable, it’s just going to raise everybody’s electrical prices. Let’s not have that other cable, let’s just figure out how to enjoy what we want to enjoy but doing it in a more thoughtful and efficient fashion. And solar is part of that. No one needs to worry about how much electricity they’re using because the sun is making it for them.
‘Why would I do this, natural gas is so cheap?’ You realize that, that has to get shipped over, it takes up room on the ferries, when the ferries can’t get here in the winter they can’t get the gas over, all of that not withstanding, it’s super dirty and it seems cheap but think about all of the things that are harming society as a result of it being cheap. Think, why is it cheap? Why is McDonald’s food cheaper than buying a head of lettuce?
Nobody wants to do something if they think they’re going to pay more for it. There are tax incentives, means of financing, the payback is less, the cost of everything has been reduced so much more from the last five years. The entire investment aspect of it has been reduced, to the extent the town is coming up with more adders for putting storage in, in addition to what’s already available from the state and federally for solar. Getting vendors involved, installers involved, people who are involved in building the houses, we just got to get everybody to sign onto this as a concept."
On why Nantucket is worth sustaining…
"I love it for the lifestyle. I’m willing to give up the money I was making in New York to live here because of days like this. It’s yours for the taking and yours for the appreciating and enjoying with little to no effort. It’s there and it’s well-worth preserving. The joy I get from waking up everyday and knowing that there’s a lot of people here who are doing it for the same reason: we get to go outside and enjoy every season out in this place that is a perfect little oasis."