A forested ridge on Maine's Vinalhaven Island is the selected sight for two or three wind turbines that Fox Islands Electric Cooperative plans to erect to serve its consumer-members.
By Derrill Holly | This article is reprinted with permission from ECT.coop.
After years of drawing power through an undersea cable, residents of Maine’s Fox Islands have thrown their overwhelming support behind a wind generation project that co-op officials say will make them energy-neutral once it’s complete.
Consumer-members voted on the proposal at the July 28 annual meeting or returned their ballots by mail. The final count was 382 to 5 in support of the measure, which calls for construction of two or three wind turbines on 74 acres along a ridgeline running inland along Vinalhaven Island.
"This will have definite economic benefits, including stabilizing and lowering the rates," said Chip Farrington, interim general manager of Fox Islands Electric Cooperative, which is based on the island and also serves the nearby island of North Haven.
The co-op’s consumer-members have been paying rates twice those of inland residents and three times the national average. The turbines are expected to cut their bills by 25 percent from current rates. About 1,200 people live on the islands year-round, but the population swells to about 5,000 during the summer.
While the turbines are expected to rise about 350 feet above the ridgeline and be visible from the mainland or the surrounding ocean, they will be sited in a remote area about three miles from the coastal community of Vinalhaven.
The equipment is expected to produce a surplus of wind in the winter and the co-op will continue to purchase power during the summer. But on an annual basis, power sales and power purchases by the co-op are expected to balance.
"There’s still an enormous amount of work that has to be done," said Farrington. The co-op hopes to begin construction next year, but expressed concern that worldwide demand for the equipment could cause delays.
While the cost of the undertaking could top $10 million, annual energy savings are projected to be about $400,000. "People like the idea that the project will be owned by the co-op and consumer-members will reap all the benefits," said Farrington.