In a nearly unanimous vote just last summer, members of Maine’s Fox Island Electric Cooperative decided to invest in wind to power the island.
Today the $14.5 million Fox Islands Wind project officially goes on line with a ribbon-cutting event, marking the completion of Maine’s first island wind project; the largest community-owned wind project on the East Coast.
To be able to take advantage of the 30% Federal Tax Credits for any renewable power that does not emit greenhouse gases (like natural gas, coal or oil), the co-op formed a for-profit subsidiary; Fox Islands Wind LLC. The cost to build the three 1.5-megawatt turbines to supply their community power was $14 million.
They raised the funds by getting a $9.5 million loan from the USDA and also finding an angel investor, Diversified Communications from Portland; that invested $5 million in return for tax credits.
The community owned coop is betting that wind will deliver them cheaper electricity than the $0.30 a kwh they pay now. Because all the islanders’ electricity comes 12 miles from the mainland in an underground cable, energy losses raise their electricity prices.
The 4.5 MW wind farm (of just three turbines) is expected to be able to cover 100% of their energy needs, for the 2,000 of them on the two islands, but residents number over 5,000 in the summer during tourist season.
Excess power during winter months will be sold into the grid, so the return on their investment gets even better. Each member’s share of a 100% wind-powered electricity supply for 25 years? $7,000.
Not only are the three 1.5 MW wind turbines community owned, but Cianbro, the company installing it is an employee-owned company. There must be something in the water. Their job:
Provide support for permitting, engineering and procurement of the turbines
Clear the site; build the site road and pour the concrete foundations
Erect the three GE 1.5 MW wind turbines, including tower sections, nacelle, hub and blades
Install all the grid interconnections, SCADA and communications systems
There is no profit being made because Fox Island Electric Cooperative is a co-op; but the island resident members will benefit from having a stable supply of lower priced clean energy which supplies 100% of their electricity needs.
There might be more tourists next summer, too, as more people come out to see how their neighborhood can make their own clean energy.