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  • Writer's pictureACK Smart Contributor

When the Sun Shines, Our Customers Beam

With Stroll come and gone, we find ourselves in the fleeting moments of a semi-populous Nantucket.

After a small rush of holiday travelers both to and from the island, the new year brings a silence and solitude that won’t seem to lift until the daffodils bloom in the spring.

Perhaps for this reason, it often surprises visitors to learn that so many people voluntarily live on Nantucket through the quiet, cold winters. In fact, it’s typically the colder months of the year that fuse a bond both with each other and to the island itself that become the reasons why people fall in love with living here in the first place.

It’s easy to understand the hesitation and skepticism - from the outside looking in, winter probably would seem hauntingly still. But if you make the 12-month commitment out here, you’re hard-pressed to leave it willingly.

And that’s just it - most times those leaving the island are not doing it willingly. It comes as a stark reminder of the state of the island and of the world; increasing prices, a red hot real estate market, and the harsh juxtaposition of the popularity of resort towns and just how many workers it takes to sustain them in peak season.

Public discord on Nantucket is often centered around conservation - land, history and tradition, resources, energy - and at ACK Smart, we’re proud to play a positive role in that. Our team works creatively and strategically everyday to find ways to conserve this island for the next generation. But there is an additional conservation factor that isn’t as easily addressed - conserving space here for those who call Nantucket home, and not just a second home.

That’s why we were so honored to partner with Housing Nantucket, a local non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and providing equitable housing solutions for the island’s year-round community. From renting to ownership, Housing Nantucket has been putting in the work to educate, assist, and expand the local population’s ability to put down permanent roots on island since 1994. Through their Covenant, Affordable Rentals, House Recycling, and educational programs, their work is changing lives - and we were lucky enough to come alongside them this past spring.

A combined initiative supported by the ReMain Nantucket Fund and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, ACK Smart teamed up with Housing Nantucket to install rooftop panels on a series of properties within their Affordable Rentals Program. Not only does this continue our work of alleviating dependance on the island’s cable connections and push us closer to ultimate energy independence, but it reduces bills and financial insecurities that many renters face everyday.

“The real beginning was in 2013 when we worked with Zach, I don’t know if he even called it ACK Smart at that point,” Anne Kuszzpa, Housing Nantucket's Executive Director, said. “We were one of his first installs, he put solar panels on our office. That really worked out well for us. We didn’t have to pay our electric bill for a really long time and we were seeing the benefit of having them on our own building.”

From that time forward, Housing Nantucket had a desire to install solar arrays on their various rental units, but could never figure out how to make it a reality. Fast-forward a few years and several generous grants, including one from ReMain Nantucket, and Housing Nantucket was able to create a Renewable Energy fund that would help to achieve their goal of applying solar arrays to their qualifying rental properties, and bringing ACK Smart in to join the initiative.

As Housing Nantucket took care of vetting each rental situation to allow for optimal impact, ACK Smart began analyzing the properties. What has become standard practice for our design team, we took many property contenders and assessed which had the best southern sun exposure and large, uncomplicated roof-lines. Once we had our target list, our installation team was given the green light and ran with it.

“We chose houses that were slam dunks with the HDC,” Kuszpa said. “The houses were either south-facing or the south-facing part was not facing the public road, or it was in an area that was setback from the road so we didn’t anticipate problems; basically we were thinking of all of that when we selected the properties.”

Today the properties with fully installed solar arrays all assist to reduce and stabilize the electric costs for their occupants.

“Support from the ReMain Nantucket Fund and MassCEC, as well as donors to our Community Investment Tax Credit program, have allowed us to minimize financial hardship for our tenants while generating income for our nonprofit purpose,” Housing Nantucket wrote on Instagram. “Most importantly, our efforts contribute to wider solar acceptance and usage on the island, expanding renewable energy as a viable solution for our island community.”

The combined efforts of Housing Nantucket and ACK Smart made sense not just as a local business collaboration, but a joint interest in further establishing sustainable initiatives, regardless of your field of work.

“Our houses themselves are recycled housing,” Kuszpa noted. “They were slated for demolition, the homeowner gives them to us, we move them to land that’s been given to us, and then we rent it out at affordable rates to year-rounders. It all fits into this cool model of sustainability. We’re hoping seasonal homeowners and year-round homeowners who see us [installing solar] and might want to do it themselves, building momentum so we can see more solar installs out here.”

In the long winter months , it's not crazy to catch yourself smiling at the sun in the few times it appears amidst the grey. For ReMain, Housing Nantucket, ACK Smart, and all of the people our combined initiative are supporting, we'll be beaming.

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