Pride and Resiliency in Provincetown
By Max Wagner, Investment Associate
Provincetown, Massachusetts is a community dripping with pride. Rainbow flags line the narrow streets and hang from electrical wires, a colorful reminder of the town’s long history of LGBTQ acceptance. Whether you’re spending a day or staying for the summer, it is clear Provincetown is a community of neighbors who are proud of their home. They are proud of the town’s rich history and its future, a fact that became even more apparent when they flipped the switch on 413 kilowatts of solar energy.
The solar panels on the rooftops of the Provincetown Community Center and the Provincetown Water Treatment Plant are the result of a partnership between Sunwealth, Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative, ACE Solar, and the Town of Provincetown. Though completed this past summer, the projects have been a long time coming, according to Acting Town Manager David Gardner and Recycling and Renewable Energy Committee Chair Lydia Hamnquist.
“David is my next-door neighbor and we’ve been talking about these new solar projects over the fence for years. That’s Provincetown for you,” said Hamnquist.
Gardner and Hamnquist aren’t the only Provincetown residents with an interest in renewable energy. “Our community expects this from us. Provincetown is a unique town and this project represents our commitment to doing the right thing,” said Gardner.
A commitment to doing the right thing in combatting climate change, but also in adapting to its potential effects. An oceanside community at the Northernmost tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is uniquely vulnerable to rising sea levels and stronger storms. Residents and town officials are becoming increasingly concerned about power outages and flooding that could cut off the town from the rest of Cape Cod.
“Provincetown is very susceptible to flooding. We could literally become an island,” said Hamnquist. FEMA has already ordered that dozens of homeowners in the historic downtown must lift their houses due to floodplain regulations. It’s a challenge that’s only expected to get worse as the effects of climate change become more severe.
Though solar installations can’t stop a tropical storm, they can provide a path to energy independence for the community. Because the solar panels are generating electricity near the point where it’s being used, and a battery will be installed, the system can keep the power running in the event of a blackout. Access to electricity is especially important for the most vulnerable populations, including elderly and disabled people, who may rely on electricity to survive or get around.
In addition to the increased resiliency that the solar panels provide, they also generate energy savings for the town. “These projects will make a visible dent in the expenses for the town,” said Gardner. Energy savings can go a long way in a community that is used to high costs for maintaining historic old municipal buildings.
The residents of Provincetown have a lot of reasons to feel a sense of pride in their community. Now there’s one more reason: they can look up at their rooftops and see shiny new solar panels alongside bright rainbow flags.
Max Wagner is an Investment Associate at Sunwealth and a senior at Northeastern University. He is a renewable energy advocate and believes that harnessing solar energy is key to combatting climate change and building an inclusive energy future.