After years of study and preparation, wind power is officially coming to two remote islands in Maine’s Penobscot Bay. This summer, members of the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative from the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven voted overwhelmingly in favor of locating a wind-power project in their community. The final vote was 382 to five to support the project.
It will be the largest wind-power development in the coastal zone of the northeastern United States and will produce a total output of between 3.5 and 5 MW of power from two turbines. The project will give the serviced communities the rare distinction of being en-ergy-neutral by allowing the cooperative to sell excess electricity to the grid during the winter months when the winds are strongest and demand is lower. The cooperation will also be able to buy electricity back during the summer months when the demand is higher and the winds subside.
The project will provide much-needed relief to the islands’ residents. Located 10 miles off the coast, North Haven and Vinalhaven is-lands have seen their energy costs rise to a level almost triple that of mainland rates. According to the cooperative’s Web site, island residents pay 28 cents/kilowatt-hour (kWh) compared to 11.07 cents/kWh for mainland residents.
The turbines also will introduce a level of reliability not typically seen on the islands. Being a remote location, power outages have long been a part of daily life.
However, outages may be a thing of the past. The project is expected to generate about the same amount of power in a year as the cooperative typically uses. Also, in 2005, the cooperative upgraded its cable connection to the mainland, improving reliability and providing the infrastructure needed for the sale and distribution of excess wind power from the soon-to-be-built turbines.