The idea of wind energy typically brings to mind sprawling acres of hundreds of massive wind turbines. Yet, a new, smaller scale movement is “in the air,” among wind farm developers. Community wind projects do not require as much land, but still make an impressive renewable energy contribution to the local grid.
Ranging from 5-80 megawatts (MW), community wind farms can often be more easily sited, permitted and constructed than larger farms. Not only is less land required, but smaller projects usually can tap into existing infrastructure, without costly upgrades for transmission. Wind projects like these also allow for more community input, control and even a financial stake in the development. Financial institutions have loosened their purse strings a bit to make loans to wind farm developers for smaller community projects.
Recently, an island community off the coast of Maine cut the ribbon on their new community wind power project:
The Maine project was developed by Fox Islands Wind LLC. The community opted to generate power themselves, rather than transmit electricity generated on the mainland. Vinalhaven installed three wind generators, and then the community worked together to structure the power, financing, procurement contracts.
Want to learn how to bring a community wind project to your hometown? Assemble a few professionals, including an engineering firm and attorney, budget at least 24-36 months for the development process, and then consider the following steps:
1. Locate property well-suited for a wind project. Among the factors to consider include size of property, zoning, adequate wind speeds (you’ll need an assessment to measure on-site wind speed, direction, pressure and temperature), environmental issues (are there any threatened or endangered species), and proximity to transmission lines for connection to the grid.
2. Seek financing for the wind project through wind energy lenders and/or tax-equity firms. Private investors may also be an option.
3. Negotiate a purchase or lease of the property, commission wind and environmental studies, submit an interconnection application to the transmission owner/operator, and then, finally begin the land use permit application process.
4. Finally, secure contractors to construct the community wind project, and consider entering a power purchase agreement with local utilities, if applicable.
Would you support a community wind project in your hometown? Let us know in the comments below!