Would it be possible for Monhegan Island to lower its electricity costs by using wind? Matthew Thompson, President of the Monhegan Plantation Power District, wanted to find out when he attended a presentation about net energy billing as part of the Maine Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta January 10.
Others at the presentation learned about the electricity credits a community or business can get through alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar power.
Environmental attorney Sue Jones described how community wind projects and net energy billing work to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs.
Electricity (produced by diesel-powered generator on Monhegan Island) costs ratepayers about 70 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh), according to Thompson. He and others would like to reduce that cost by installing wind turbines on Monhegan and neighboring Manana Island.
There are about 30 year-round residents, many of whom are in favor of such a project, Thompson said. But many of the 800 seasonal residents are opposed to the idea, citing the potential for noise and light flicker disturbances, he said.
However, if a wind turbine project passed a vote, Thompson said they could run a line to Port Clyde to sell power to the main grid.
Port Clyde is 14 miles from Monhegan and Thompson estimates it would cost approximately $1 million per mile to run the line.
Even if they were to raise funds and obtain enough in grant money to do the project, it would require a very large substation to be constructed on the island, Jones said. She said she thinks it would be cost prohibitive, but asked about generating power for community use.
The island created a webpage dedicated to the possibilities. The site provides presentations, documents and links about the matter.
An “Opportunity and Risk” presentation offered to the community in 2009 by Dr. George Baker shows the benefits and possibilities, including potential costs and where the community could garner additional funds.
As for other communities, individuals and businesses, the benefits to co-ownership of a renewable energy project are worth considering, as Jones illustrated during her presentation.
Potential owners can be schools, farmers, small businesses, co-operative groups, colleges, municipalities and state agencies.
There are six megawatts (mw) worth of community wind projects in Maine, according to Jones. Of these, 4.5 mw are produced by Fox Island Wind, the largest community wind-power facility on the east coast. Jones said there are about 150 mw in development in Maine, a small portion of which are municipal.
One community wind project is the 100 kilowatt turbine installed at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport. “This is a very exciting project,” Jones said. “I like this because it was mostly student-led.” The turbine is currently spinning and generates electric power for the five town community school district, according to a January 19, 2012 article in the Coastal Journal.
The article states it took eight years of planning and implementation led by the local student group, the Windplanners, and cost approximately $500,000.
Net energy billing credits facility owners and customers for unused energy. Jones said credits can be applied to up to 10 accounts or meters, provided all are within a single transmission and distribution territory.
Unused credits accumulate into a 12-month period, after which, if still unused, get credited to the facility.
More information about this subject can be found in Chapter 313 in the Maine Public Utilities (MPUC) website.
Further inquiries can be made to Mitch Tannenbaum at the MPUC by calling 207-287-3831 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.