This secluded home on Martha’s Vineyard was a long time in the making. For more than 20 summers, Doug and Margot Rothman had roughed it on their 22-acre property in Chilmark overlooking the Elizabeth Islands and Aquinnah Lighthouse. “The original house was incomplete,” says Margot. “We basically lived in the basement and camped outside.” Then in 2007, the couple, who have three sons, began a renovation that would create a new foundation for the existing house. However, after the old house was moved, a storm literally blew the structure in on itself. “It was a tragic situation,” Doug says. Trees had been cut down to accommodate moving the house, and the new site had already been excavated. “We felt that we had destroyed a lot. So when it came time to rebuild, we really wanted to ease the impact on the environment.” Phil Regan of Hutker Architects, which has offices on the Vineyard and in Falmouth, got back to work restoring the landscape and designing a new house that could earn LEED certification — that’s a building-industry rating system that promotes environmentally friendly construction. Last month, the Rothmans’ property was the first home on the island to earn the designation.
Not only are the home’s internals well-designed; the architecture is very tasteful. Much like President John F. Kennedy’s challenge 50 years ago to beat the Russians to the moon, the green energy movement has tapped into many Americans’ competitive streak.
This competitive spirit is embodied perfectly in the West Tisbury home of Alexander Boyle, which recently won a national award for the most innovative green energy design in the country. The Boyle home was designed by Brian K. Nelson and David Sprague of Nelson Mechanical Design, and was built by general contractor Aaron Zeender.
The home was selected for top honor by the Green Mechanical Council — formed to educate contractors and industry leaders about creating environmentally sound mechanical systems.
Alexander Boyle and his family’s quest to shrink their carbon footprint began in their oceanfront home. Only 150 feet above sea level, their property rises from the sea to a “Long View,” overlooking Vineyard Sound to the westnorthwest— the direction from which the prevailing winter winds come. The property didn’t have good southern exposure for a PV system, but the winter winds would provide ample power. This set a scenario for great energy production when the family’s electric/geothermal heating system requires it most.
“Our objective…was to play a tiny part in what must be a national imperative to shift our country’s energy supply to renewable, sustainable sources,” says Alexander. “Our home has received considerable publicity as Martha’s Vineyard’s first ‘zero net-carbon’ house. With the geothermal heating and cooling system, and with the wind turbine, this home will operate totally without gas or oil fuel, which means no net greenhouse gases.”
Imagine a future in which you join a farm share program and receive, along with your in-season fruit, vegetables and flowers, cheap electricity. A future where you receive a wider range of produce over a longer season, maybe even year-round, as greenhouses proliferate on those farms, taking advantage of that cheaper, price-stable, renewable energy. A future where four or five big (900kW, 230-foot high) wind turbines on a few of the bigger, windier, Island farms produce enough power to run all the others and ultimately, all the Island’s schools and at least some Island homes. What you are imagining is something called the Martha’s Vineyard Farm-School Wind Turbine Concept, originally proposed by Brian Nelson, and increasingly supported by various Island farmers, school administrators and others.
BEST RESIDENTIAL SECOND PLACE JARRELL RESIDENCE West Tisbury, Mass. • Nelson Mechanical Design, Inc.
The use of a 5 kW wind turbine makes this residence/yoga studio a net zero project. Technologies applied include geothermal, a radiant floor system, indirect water heaters, and energy-saving controls. A horizontal, six-ton direct exchange geothermal field was selected to serve radiant space heating loads through a buffer tank. Domestic hot water is preheated using the geothermal heat pump through a flat plate heat exchanger with final heat provided by a plastic electric water heater.
…..Close by, in Edgartown, Mass., Brian Nelson just installed a solar energy and hot water system for the chic Atria, a popular restaurant with “one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world,” according to Wine Spectator magazine.
Until recently, Nelson had been working with geothermal energy, but he notes that digging a series of looped pipes 6 to 10 feet underground is almost impossible on the Vineyard’s rocky terrain.
As co-owner of Nelson Mechanical Design, a firm that offers heat-delivery systems for homes on the island, Nelson now guides his customers to a more affordable air-to-air heat pump that works in colder climates…
Nelson Mechanical Design (NMD), a Vineyard-Haven based “green” mechanical engineering company, recently announced the successful completion of the first series of trials of a radiant cooling system installed in an Edgartown residence.
According to a press release from NMD, the new cooling system is a first of its kind on Martha’s Vineyard. It works by sending cooled water through radiant tubing in the floor, which in turn helps cool the house.
The use of radiant cooling is relatively new in residential buildings and offers the potential for energy savings when compared to a conventional air-conditioning system. The National Association of Home Builders Research Center’s website estimates the use of radiant cooling saves approximately 70 to 80 percent of the energy used by a conventional air-conditioning system to power fans to deliver cooled air, the NMD press release notes.
One contractor who is definitely prepared for the green movement is Brian Nelson, co-owner of Nelson Mechanical Design Inc., Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. For the last four years, he and his business partner, David Sprague, have aggressively positioned themselves as Martha’s Vineyard’s green mechanical contractor, getting the word out through the Website (www.nmdgreen.com), print ads, and client base. “Green mechanical contracting is vitally important for so many reasons,” said Nelson. “It’s important for the future of our country, for the health of our environment, and for the health of my business. Like they say, ‘Go green or go out of business.’”
To the Editor: We wholeheartedly support the application for a wind turbine at the Martha’s Vineyard Arena to serve their electrical load. Every possible metric shows that this project will be vital to promotion of the energy concepts of the Island Plan: It will demonstrate the practicality of local on-site generation of electricity using solar energy (via the wind). It will serve as a wonderful model for all of the youngsters at the ice rink, letting them see a viable solution to global warming in action, right at their skating rink. It will show that wind turbines can provide an important revenue stream to reduce exposure to fossil fuel price increases.
Several proposed Vineyard wind turbine projects are in early planning stages – for private residences, schools, municipal facilities, and businesses. Federal and state grant money and incentives for using renewable energy make wind turbine projects enticing. But, those involved in the evaluation process must weigh the projected costs savings against the initial outlays and projected payback time, as well as maintenance costs.
A model project
In researching model wind turbine projects for Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS), consultant Brian Nelson examined one operated by the Spirit Lake Community School District in Iowa, the first school district in the U.S. to use wind power as a primary wind source.
The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS) not only wants to reduce its carbon footprint, but to erase that footprint entirely by the year 2010. The school will hold an informational community meeting about proposed plans for a renewable energy system to accomplish that goal on Tuesday, June 17, at 6:30 pm.
The Charter School’s quest to become a net-zero, carbon-neutral facility hinges on using a wind turbine to generate all of the building’s electricity and to run heat pumps for heating and cooling. Depending on the wind potential at the school’s State Road site in West Tisbury and the size of the turbine ultimately chosen, it also may produce enough electricity to sell some back to the electric grid.
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People are becoming more and more aware of the cost of heating. Traditional heating systems and boilers use fossil fuels, making them an expensive and not sustainable option for the environment. Nobody wants to waste their money. Since two thirds of the heat generated by the Altherma air source heat pump system is free of charge and maintenance is minimal, the perfect solution is just around the corner.
Most think of Martha’s Vineyard as a pastoral place with pristine beaches, beautiful lighthouses, and quaint Victorian cottages that serve as second homes to those who can afford to come and play there during the summer. While that’s true to a certain extent, the 20 x 9 mile island off the coast of Massachusetts is also home to many residents who are very concerned with how to better manage their resources and environment.