As utilities scramble to reach emissions targets with massive renewable energy projects and smart meter rollouts, it’s important to remember that community-owned renewable energy is a viable–and sometimes better–alternative. And now community energy is getting some attention as the East Coast’s largest community wind project, located on Maine’s Fox Islands (Vinalhaven and North Haven), launches.
The Fox Islands Wind Project consists of three 1.5 MW wind turbines that are expected to generate 11,605 MWh of electricity–slightly more than the small islands (combined population: 1,600) need. The turbines weren’t cheap, but the islands secured a $10 million loan from the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service along with a tax equity investment from Portland’s Diversified Communications. Once the loans are paid off, the turbines are expected to significantly lower electricity costs–a benefit that homeowners often never see from large-scale projects.
Community wind power is a growing phenomenon in the U.S., with another $40 million project announced in Minnesota earlier this week. It’s a trend that will most likely continue to develop as communities tire of waiting for utilities to construct mega-projects and local governments look for new ways to increase tax revenue.