Frequently Asked Questions
How much power will the project generate annually?
Fox Islands Wind is sized so that the wind turbines will generate about as much power as the Fox Islands use, which is between 10 and 10.5 million kilowatt hours per year. The three General Electric 1.5 MW turbines are projected to generate around 11,605 megawatt hours of electricity annually and up to 4.5 megawatts at any given time. In 2007, the maximum load that islands used was about 2.6 megawatts, so when the wind is blowing hard we will generate more power than we use.
What happens when the wind does not blow?
The wind blows intermittently, and it blows harder in the winter than in the summer. Therefore, while the project is expected to generate—over the course of the year—as much power as the islands use, we are not truly "self-sufficient." Over the course of a day, power is transmitted to and from the mainland via the submarine cable based on co-op electricity loads and wind-power generation. When the project generates more power than is being used by co-op members, the co-op sells excess energy to the New England power grid. When energy use surpasses generation from the wind-power facility, the co-op buys energy from the mainland.
An illustrative example of seasonal variation in power generation is shown in the figure below. As you can see, the wind project will generate more power than the islands use most months of the year, but the co-op will continue to be a net power buyer in the summer. Over the course of the entire year, the co-op will sell slightly more power than it will buy. Detailed simulations of the wind velocity and power load over the course of a year suggest that the Fox Islands will consume roughly 50% of the power generated by the turbines on the islands, and sell the remaining 50%. We will also need to buy roughly 40% of our total needs over the submarine cable. In short, the project will make extensive use of the submarine cable and would not be viable if it were not for the investment made four years ago in the new cable.
What impact does the project have on the Fox Islands' electric rates?
Because the project will be generating as much electricity as the islands use in a year, the project will significantly insulate co-op members from future electricity price increases. Given the increasingly volatile price of electricity in recent years, this is a major benefit. In the coming months, we will update this site with information on how FIW has reduced electricity rates.
What are the project's environmental impacts?
Prior to construction, the co-op and the Island Institute jointly funded a study of potential impacts of the project to birds and rare plants. The bird survey, conducted by Richard Podolsky and Norm Famous, lasted more than a year. It concluded, "The site hosted very few migrants and breeders – due to the fact that it is so dominated by granite outcroppings and is essentially therefore marginal habitat for all birds. Also, the airspace above the outcrops does not host a lot of high-flying transiting birds. Because the outcrops are permanent features of the site, we do not think it likely that the mid-summer or fall bird data will alter our preliminary conclusion that exposure to all bird species from three wind turbines at this site should be extremely low."
The Podolsky-Famous study found no rare plants, habitats or wildlife at the site. Some wetlands were noted and one vernal pool was located. The site design takes care to minimize impact to wetlands and avoid the vernal pool entirely.
Richard Podolsky and his team have begun a year of post-construction monitoring to measure any avian impacts during operation.
Additionally, it is important to note that wind turbines emit no greenhouse gasses, pollutants or heavy metals into the air. They do not release heat into rivers, lakes or the atmosphere, and require only a small amount of land and infrastructure. Annual maintenance of each turbine requires only a small amount of fossil-fuel use for maintenance crew transportation, replacement parts, and lubricant disposal. It is not necessary to mine, produce, or process fuel for a wind turbine to produce electricity. Wind turbines are significantly quieter, more picturesque, and more wildlife-friendly than coal or natural gas-fired electrical plants or nuclear reactors. Turbines may be disassembled and recycled.
What about noise generated by the turbines?
Fox Islands Electric Coop and Fox Islands Wind are working aggressively to collect data and community input in order to understand how the turbine sound is impacting some of our neighbors, as well as to understand the options available to the community for any modifications. We currently working with Acentech Incorporated, a multi-disciplinary acoustical consulting firm, to conduct ongoing sound monitoring at multiple locations around the project site. This data will be reviewed by the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure compliance with state law. Additionally, we are working with neighbors to understand their subjective responses to the sound.
The sound impact of wind turbines is highly complex, as are different peoples' responses to these sounds. We are working to share the information we have gathered with the community. More information on this work can be found here:
- Fox Islands Wind Board Members' 12.14.09 Letter to The Wind
- 12.24.09 Update to The Wind on Turbine Performance and Noise Issues
- Acoustic Ecology Institute Special Report: Wind Energy Noise Impacts http://www.acousticecology.org/srwind.html
- Maine Sunday Telegram: A Community Works to Resolve a Community Issue - 01/30/2010
- "Beyond Noise" by Del Webster, February 2010
- 3.6.10 Fox Islands Electric Coop Update on Turbine Performance and Noise Issue
How are energy and power measured?
A watt (W) is a measure of power, or work done over some period of time. A kilowatt (kW) is 1,000 watts or about 1.34 horsepower. A megawatt (MW) is 1,000,000 watts.
A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a measure of energy, or power used over a period of time. A 100 kW light bulb needs 100 kW to function. Over the course of an hour, the light bulb will need 100 kW for 1 hour or 100 kWh.
How expensive is electricity on the Fox Islands and how does that compare with the national average?
The National Average Residential Rate was 11.36 cents/kWh in 2008, 10.65 cents/kWh in 2007, and 10.40 cents/kWh in 2006.
(From the Energy Information Administration)
The Fox Islands Residential rate changes monthly based on fuel prices but the 2009 average was 28 cents/kWh.
How much electricity do North Haven and Vinalhaven use in a year?
In 2007, Fox Islands Electric Cooperative members used 10.5 million kWh.
What is the life expectancy of a Wind Turbine?
No one knows for sure because the technology is relatively young, but there is general agreement that a new wind turbine will last about 20 years.
Are other islands looking at wind power development?
The Swan's Island Electric Cooperative, which serves Swan's and Frenchboro, is currently investigating the potential for wind-power development. They are now collecting wind-resource data. Other islands have expressed strong interest in community wind projects and some island residents have erected turbines of their own.
The Monhegan Plantation Power District is following the wind development model used on Vinalhaven to investigate the potential for a wind-power facility on Monhegan to help offset the high cost of electricity. Feasibility studies will include wind-resource, economic and logistical analysis, environmental-impact studies, and community outreach. If the feasibility studies yield promising results, project developers will begin raising pre-development capital, completing necessary permitting, and site-design plans before working to secure permanent financing.
For More Information
- Direct questions and concerns to 594-9209, ext. 144 or .