In an overwhelming show of support, members of the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative from the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven, Maine voted 382 to 5 last night in favor of siting a wind-power project in their community. This vote included both the seasonal and year-round communities, and gave the nod to a nationally precedent-setting alternative-energy project.
Located 10 miles off the coast in Penobscot Bay, North Haven and Vinalhaven islands have seen their energy costs rise at a rate even more alarming than that faced by ratepayers on the mainland. This project will be the largest wind-power development in the coastal zone of the northeastern U.S., and will produce a total output of between 3.5 and 5 megawatts of power – larger than the Hull project in Massachusetts. It will also enable these two communities to sell power in the winter when the offshore wind is strongest, and buy power in the summer when energy consumption is the highest, making them virtually “energy-neutral.” As a community-wind project (where power generation is controlled by the community), the first benefit will flow directly to island residents, reducing their cost of buying power by between three and six cents per kilowatt hour, and stabilizing the price of electricity for the next 20 years.
Hannah Pingree, a Maine state legislator from the island of North Haven, is convinced that wind power will have a positive impact on the quality of life for islanders. “Over the past five years,” said Pingree, “island ratepayers have seen significant increases in their electricity bills, even before the current energy crisis. Now we have a unique opportunity to stabilize and, ideally, lower our electricity rates while also producing our own renewable energy.” Barb Davidson, a business owner on Vinalhaven, agreed, saying, “I’m certainly in support of wind power – the electric bills are extremely high out here. I’ve been to Norway and Sweden and wind power there is not invasive – it will help businesses and homeowners.”
George Baker, a professor on leave from the Harvard Business School, has been working on the project with the FIEC, island community leaders and Philip Conkling, president of the Island Institute, for over a year. He was clearly elated by the outcome of last night’s vote. “We are thrilled to receive this remarkable show of support from the community,” he said. “Now we’re poised to move forward quickly through the planning process, working hand in hand with municipal leaders.” “In fact,” he added, “the only element that might get in the way is the difficulty of acquiring turbines.” Chip Farrington, the FIEC’s general manager, is already looking to the future. “There is a lot of work yet to be done,” he stated, “but we have received a great level of support and it could not happen at a better time.”
SOURCE Fox Islands Electric Cooperative
29 July 2008
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