WCAI Series Reporting

WCAI brings you original in-depth reporting on issues facing the Cape, Islands, and South Coast: Wind Turbines, Education, Water Quality, Alzheimer's, and more.

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Rupa Shenoy

On a cold but sunny day last month, about a hundred people rallied in front of the Massachusetts State House, hoisting signs that read “Green the grid,” “Clean energy now” and “No future with fossil fuels.”

“We’re talking about our children’s future,” shouted Kelsey Wirth into a megaphone. Wirth is founder of the group Mothers Out Front, which has one goal:  “To ensure that Massachusetts is making the right energy choices for the sake of our children’s future,” she said, “and that means choosing clean and renewable energy every time there’s a choice to be made.”

NOAA/Alecia Orsini

Many homeowners install renewable energy technologies like solar panels in an effort to become less dependent on conventional energy sources. But could an entire island eventually achieve that goal? Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard is taking the first steps to harness the strong tides that flow just off its eastern shore. It’s new technology, and there are many financial and regulatory hurdles still in the way. But the hope is that one day the ocean will supply a significant portion of the Vineyard’s energy needs.  

Courtesy photo

When it comes to energy hogs and inefficiency, ice rinks rank among the worst. But not the new one in Falmouth. Not only is this eco-friendly ice arena making its own electricity, it's using that electricity as efficiently as any building of its kind in the world.

"You don't see a lot of rinks like this, obviously," said Paul Moore of Falmouth Youth Hockey. "And rinks are utility monsters, they eat up a lot, a lot of electricity."

Rob Benchley

Keeping an island 30 miles off the mainland supplied with fuel and electricity is hard enough, and on Nantucket, there’s also the need to account for the seasonal population that creates a short but significant surge in the demand for energy. It's a complex energy system that is constantly evolving with advances in technology and transportation.

Brian Morris/WCAI

There are a lot of upsides to plug-in electric vehicles, which is why state and federal officials are pushing hard to bring them into the mainstream. The technology promises to help reduce our reliance on imported petroleum products; the cars can be charged overnight or at times when the electric grid is less taxed; and they produce zero tailpipe emissions.

What's On This Electric Bill, Anyway?

Nov 20, 2014

Utility company officials don't usually make house calls. But NStar spokesperson Michael Durand agreed to sit down with an NStar customer and talk about her electric bill. So we introduced Durand to 72-year-old Barbara Meehan of Wareham.

UGArdener / flickr

Boothbay, Maine has a message for end-of-the-line towns around New England: you could make the whole grid stronger.

Steve Junker / WCAI

Here’s a question for you: how much electricity did you use last month? That’s not how much did you pay on your electric bill – but how much electric power did you use?

If you're serious about using less, a good place to start is to understand how much you already consume.

In Falmouth I sat at the kitchen table with Ben and Kellie Porter and their two young children, as Ben opened his laptop to examine the family electric bill.

“It was 600 last month, 700 in July," he said. "Middle of the winter it was down to 400.  So between 600 and 400. Then July - big month.”   

Henry Zbyszynski / flkr

Both of our region’s primary electric utilities have announced double-digit rate increases in recent weeks, leaving some residential customers wondering how they’ll pay an extra thirty dollars a month or more.

But beyond the rate hikes, New England is in the midst of an energy crisis. It’s facing serious questions about the future of its energy supply. Rupa Shenoy reports that if the region can't get a grip on its electricity usage and supply, residents and businesses are facing a future that may include “rolling blackouts” on days when usage is the highest.


Brian Morris/WCAI

New Bedford’s textile mills once churned out fabric 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some of the old mills have been torn down, but others survive as artist spaces, outlets and apparel manufacturers. About a half dozen of the red brick structures have been restored and turned into high-end apartments. Manomet Place in New Bedford’s North End is one example. 

Brian Morris/WCAI

Driving through New Bedford along Route 195, it’s hard not to notice the long red brick buildings on either side of the highway. These are the old textile mills, built mostly in the early 1900’s. They’re a familiar part of the landscape, but many people don’t know the stories these buildings have to tell: of the immigrant workers who came here by the thousands; of the working conditions they faced; of a textile industry that exploded in New Bedford and then faded just as quickly; and of the present-day debate about whether to save these buildings or tear them down. 

Here for Work, Immigrants Face Violence

Sep 22, 2014
Sarah Reynolds

Friday is payday for many New Bedford businesses. That makes for a bustling Acushnet Avenue with money-sending shops on nearly every block. Transportes Vasquez sends money and other goods from immigrants in New Bedford to their homes in Guatemala. The owner, Luis Vasquez says on average, 500 people come by to send money every weekend.

Unauthorized and Paying Taxes

Sep 19, 2014
Sarah Reynolds

February and March is a busy time for the Community Economic Development Center in New Bedford. It’s tax season. For the past eleven years, this community organization has participated in a federal program that helps low income people file their taxes. It offers free tax service to families making less than 52-thousand dollars a year. Williams says she gets all kinds of people coming in who fit the bill. And many of them are immigrants who are here illegally, like Luis Farfan. He stops by every year to file his tax return.

Not Licensed To Drive

Sep 18, 2014
stock photo

When Celia Alves first gets in her car to drive home after a long day of work, she prays.

Dear God,” she began, “I want to say thank you so much for this beautiful day and for your protection…”

Alves is not a nervous driver. She’s been driving a long time – for 24 years – most of those years on the Cape and in her native Brazil before that.

First Generation: Torn Between Two Cultures

Sep 17, 2014
Courtesy photo

Mara, of Falmouth, first came to Cape Cod with her parents when she was ten. These first generation immigrants who arrive when they’re young often are the ones who struggle most, as they have feet in two worlds. But two years ago, things got a little easier for some of them. A new presidential directive called DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – allows children who were in the U.S. before their 16th birthday to get work authorization and to defer deportation. Some opponents say the program amounts to temporary legalization, and they want it repealed.

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