Edgartown selectmen sent the Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative back to the drawing board Tuesday to re-evaluate how it will cover a budget gap, following heated discussion about the town’s participation in the regional energy cooperative.

Representatives from CVEC, a regional cooperative designed to help develop renewable energy projects, came before the selectmen Tuesday to ask for a half-cent “adder,” an amount of money per kilowatt hour of energy that will go back to the cooperative for expenses. CVEC board members described a $100,000 budget shortfall and said the funding is needed to keep the organization afloat.

The 19 members of CVEC include Dukes County and all Island towns except Aquinnah. Edgartown was one of the early members. In June 2014, two solar array projects, one at the Nunnepog well area off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and another at Katama Farm, went online, though not without problems. Complaints from neighbors about noise and disruption from the projects, which involved building solar arrays on large areas of land, eventually led to the need for acoustic screens and other measures to restore vegetation and deflect sound.

To date the town has spent about $200,000 in mitigation efforts at the two solar sites, town administrator Pamela Dolby said.

Edgartown solar array at Katama Farm. The town was an early member of the Cape and Vineyard Energy Cooperative. — Mark Lovewell

Frustration over the problems and the cost to the town bubbled out during a feisty meeting Tuesday when CVEC representatives came before the selectmen seeking funding to cover their budget shortfall.

CVEC is asking so-called round one member towns to send the half cent per kilowatt hour back to the cooperative for administrative expenses. Edgartown is a round one town, as is Oak Bluffs, where the request was easily approved last month.

Other towns that joined the program later have already agreed to assessments.

CVEC manager Liz Argo said based on numbers from the last fiscal year, in Edgartown the half cent would add up to about $11,671, roughly a 6.5 per cent reduction in money returned to the town through energy savings. Last year the town received $181,002 from energy produced through the solar projects, she said.

But selectman Arthur Smadbeck was hopping mad at the prospect of sending more money to CVEC, pointing to the $200,000 in unanticipated expenses for the two solar projects.

“It isn’t fair,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “I feel like we’ve done our share, even more than our share. We took a chance, went in on the first round. It was a gamble, if you will. And we really feel like we’ve done a lot of supporting on this whole process.”

CVEC board members pressed their case, saying the town’s participation is critically needed.

Jen Rand, West Tisbury town administrator and CVEC vice president, said Edgartown has made money from the project and would continue to get benefits for the next 17 years of the 20-year lease.

“If Edgartown says no there will be no round one adder at all . . . CVEC as an organization will be functionally unable to continue in the organization as it is,” she said.

Mr. Smadbeck countered that the cooperative learned from mistakes that affected towns like Edgartown, which joined early on.

“We were part of the first round, part of big learning curve. That learning curve cost us a lot of money,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “I feel there is no adder. We paid that all up front. We were the first round, people learned from what happened with us.”

He suggested the town’s share be divided among other members. ”We’re not going to add extra money...asking Edgartown to do that is not fair,” he said.

CVEC board member Bill Straw of Tisbury said if CVEC isn’t able to continue operations, the town would have to take on the cost of accounting and other work.

“I’m hoping that CVEC isn’t going to go belly up,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

“There’s a chance of that,” Mr. Straw said.

Ms. Argo acknowledged Mr. Smadbeck’s concerns but said the organization needs to get on a stable financial footing.

“We understand that Edgartown is special,” she said. “We will not survive without this adder. That’s a known fact.”

CVEC board member Richard Toole of Oak Bluffs appealed to the town to consider the big picture. “It would really be a shame if Edgartown was the one who brought CVEC down,” he said. “We made a mistake. We learn from our mistakes,” Mr. Toole added.

“We did, too,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “But ours cost us $200,000.”

“I just think you need to be a little bit conscious of the greater good,” Mr. Toole said.

Mr. Smadbeck noted that selectman Michael Donaroma was not at the meeting and said that he was not willing to vote for the adder. “My request would be to go back and reconsider . . . that would be my request,” he said.