Community wind energy

Community wind energy
Wind turbines at Findhorn Ecovillage make the community a net exporter of electricity.

Community wind projects are locally owned by farmers, investors, businesses, schools, utilities, or other public or private entities who utilize wind energy to support and reduce energy costs to the local community. The key feature is that local community members have a significant, direct financial stake in the project beyond land lease payments and tax revenue. Projects may be used for on-site power or to generate wholesale power for sale, usually on a commercial-scale greater than 100 kW.[1]



Financially, community-based wind projects are structured much differently than traditional wind farms. In the traditional model, the company that builds and manages a wind farm retains sole ownership of the development. The owners of the land on which the wind turbines were built usually have no stake in development, and are instead compensated through lease payments or by royalty-based contracts.

The more people that become involved through community wind power, the more democratic the energy supply system becomes. Energy sellers make a profit, landowners receive leasing fees, communities get improved infrastructure, local people get jobs, governments receive taxes, and consumers receive electricity at competitive prices.[2]

Currently, companies following a community model comprise only a small portion of the overall wind energy industry. In comparison to traditional wind companies, community wind businesses tend to develop smaller-scale projects, often less than 50 megawatts (MW).

Community wind farms


The Hepburn Wind Project is wind farm proposed wind farm near Daylesford, Victoria, north-west of Melbourne, Victoria. It will include two wind turbines which should produce enough power for 2,300 households.[3]

This will be the first Australian community-owned wind farm. The initiative has emerged because the community felt that the state and federal governments were not doing enough to address climate change.[3]


Community wind power is in its infancy in Canada but there are reasons for optimism. One such reason is the launch of a new Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program in the Province of Ontario . A number of community wind projects are in development in Ontario but the first project that is likely to obtain a FIT contract and connect to the grid is the Pukwis Community Wind Park.[4] Pukwis will be unique in that it is a joint Aboriginal/Community wind project that will be majority-owned by the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, with a local renewable energy co-operative (the Pukwis Energy Co-operative) owning the remainder of the project.


In Denmark, families were offered a tax exemption for generating their own electricity within their own or an adjoining commune.[5] By 2001 over 100,000 families belonged to wind turbine cooperatives, which had installed 86% of all the wind turbines in Denmark, a world leader in wind power.[6] Wind power has gained very high social acceptance in Denmark, with the development of community wind farms playing a major role.[7]

In 1997, Samsø won a government competition to become a model renewable energy community. An offshore wind farm comprising 10 turbines (making a total of 21 altogether including land-based windmills), was completed, funded by the islanders.[8] Now 100% of its electricity comes from wind power and 75% of its heat comes from solar power and biomass energy.[9] An Energy Academy has opened in Ballen, with a visitor education center.[10]


In Germany, hundreds of thousands of people have invested in citizens' wind farms across the country and thousands of small and medium sized enterprises are running successful businesses in a new sector that in 2008 employed 90,000 people and generated 8 percent of Germany's electricity.[2] Wind power has gained very high social acceptance in Germany, with the development of community wind farms playing a major role.[7]

The Netherlands

Sixty-three farmers in De Zuidlob, the southern part of the municipality of Zeewolde, have entered into a cooperative agreement that aims to develop a wind farm of at least 108 MW. The project will include the installation of three phases of 12 wind turbines with capacities of 3 to 4.5 MW each. The aim is to put the wind farm into service in 2012.[11]

The Netherlands has an active community of wind cooperatives. They build and operate wind parks in all regions of the Netherlands. This started in the 1980s with the first Lagerweij turbines. Back then, these turbines could be financed by the members of the cooperatives. Today, the cooperatives build larger wind parks, but not as large as commercial parties do. Some still operate self-sufficiently, others partner with larger commercial wind park developers.

Because of the very unproductive state policies for financing wind parks in the Netherlands, the cooperatives have developed a new financing model, where members of a cooperative do not have to pay taxes for the electricity they generate with their community wind park. In this construction the Zelfleveringsmodel the cooperative operates the wind park, and a traditional energy company only acts as a service provider, for billing and energy balance on the public grid. This is the new role for energy companies in the future, where production is largely decentralized.

United Kingdom

Baywind Energy Co-operative was the first co-operative to own wind turbines in the United Kingdom. Baywind was modeled on the similar wind turbine cooperatives and other renewable energy co-operatives that are common in Scandinavia,[12] and was founded as an Industrial and Provident Society in 1996. It grew to exceed 1,300 members, each with one vote. A proportion of the profits is invested in local community environmental initiatives through the Baywind Energy Conservation Trust. As of 2006, Baywind owns a 2.5 megawatt five-turbine wind farm at Harlock Hill near Ulverston, Cumbria (operational since 29 January 1997), and one of the 600 kilowatt turbines at the Haverigg II wind farm near Millom, Cumbria.

Another community-owned wind farm, Westmill Wind Farm Cooperative, opened in May 2008 in the Oxfordshire village of Watchfield. It consists of five 1.3 megawatt turbines, and is described by its promoters as the UK's largest community-owned wind farm. It was structured as a cooperative, whose shares and loan stock were sold to the local community. Other businesses, such as Midcounties Co-operative, also invested, and the Co-operative Bank provided a loan.[13][14][15]

Community-owned schemes in Scotland include a three V27 wind turbine system near the manufacturer Vestas's Scottish base in Kintyre,[16] operated by Gigha Renewable Energy Ltd. which is capable of generating up to 675 kW of power. Gigha residents control the whole project and profits are reinvested in the community.[17]

Findhorn Ecovillage has four Vestas wind turbines which can generate up to 750 kW. These make the community net exporters of renewable-generated electricity. Most of the generation is used on-site with any surplus exported to the National Grid.[18]

Boyndie Wind Farm Co-operative is part of the Energy4All group, which promotes community ownership.[19] A number of other schemes supported by Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company are in the pipeline.

Unity Wind Ltd is an Industrial and Provident Society that intends to install two 2MW wind turbines at North Walsham in North Norfolk. Its key aim is community wind turbines installed and run by community investment and for financial benefit to the community.

United States

Most of the wind farms in the United States are commercially owned. As of 2011, Iowa has just one community owned wind farm, that is Hardin Hilltop near Jefferson, Iowa.[20]

National Wind is a large-scale community wind project developer, with thirteen families of projects in development or operation. These projects have an aggregate capacity of over 4,000 MW. The vision of the company is to revitalize rural economies by promoting investment in domestic renewable energy resources. National Wind creates shared ownership with communities and allows them participation in decisions which are made.[21]

In March 2009, National Wind formed Little Rock Wind LLC, its 7th Minnesota-based, community-owned wind energy company. The company will develop up to 150 MW of wind power within Big Stone County, Minnesota, over the next 5 to 7 years.[22]

Goodhue Wind LLC is a community wind development company in Goodhue County, Minnesota. The company intends to develop a 78 MW wind farm, which will supply electricity to Midwestern utilities and ultimately to Midwestern homes and businesses. Goodhue Wind expects the project will be operational between late 2009 and early 2010.[23]

Business models

Community shared ownership

In a community-based model, the developer/manager of a wind farm shares ownership of the project with area landowners and other community members. Property owners whose land was used for the wind farm are generally given a choice between a monthly cash lease and ownership units in the development. While some community wind projects, such as High Country Energy in southern Minnesota, issued public shares after the project’s formation, investment opportunities are usually offered to local citizens before the wind development is officially created.[24]


A wind turbine cooperative, also known as a wind energy cooperative, is a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise that follows the cooperative model, investing in wind turbines or wind farms.[25] The cooperative model was developed in Denmark. The model has also spread to Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, with isolated examples elsewhere.


Some places have enacted policies to encourage development of municipally owned and operated wind turbines on town land. These projects are publicly owned and tax exempt. An example is the Hull Wind One project in Massachusetts' Boston Harbor in 2001. A 660 kW wind turbine was installed, and is still a great example of small scale commercial wind.[26]

Benfits and impacts of community wind energy



Wind energy projects provide adequate job opportunities, especially rural communities. Once a wind farm project is established in a community, jobs are needed for: manufacturing the materials needed to build the project, transportation of supplies to the project area, and construction of the project as well as building roads leading to the project. After the project is complete, jobs will be needed to maintain and operate the facility. According to a study by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, wind energy produces 27% more jobs per kilowatt-hour than coal plants and 66% more jobs than natural gas plants. 3.[27] Landowners will also collect revenues for hosting turbines on their property. Given a typical wind turbine spacing requirements, a 250-acre farm could increase annual farm income by $14,000 per year with little effect on their normal farming and ranching operations. 4.[27] Community wind energy projects increase local property taxes which were originally low because there was very little to be taxed due to the sparse population and vast farm land. Once the wind turbines are in service they are taxed, creating much needed revenue for the local community.


The Midwest and the Great Plains regions in the United States are ideal areas for community wind energy projects; they are also oftentimes prone to drought. Fossil fuel plants use large amounts of water for cooling purposes which is detrimental to communities' water supply if there is a drought. Wind turbines do not use any water since there is no considerable amount of heat produced during energy generation. Wind energy adds power to the electric grid which decreases the amount of oil needed to generate a community's electricity. Local land owners, who produce the wind, can also control the amount of energy produced, which expands the regional energy mix. Overall community wind energy reduces the local community's dependence on oil and their cost for electricity.


Wind energy is a clean energy source and does not emit greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide. Since there is no pollution, the surrounding land, water, and air is preserved. Also, since wind farms do not use any water the ecosystem may have higher survival rate.



A wind turbine can be the cause of trouble when it comes to passing birds. The risk of collision with the rotors, tower, and even cables connected to a wind turbine is there and some birds are killed because of it. The annual death toll from collisions is relatively low however, the high estimate being 23 bird moralities per turbine per year. Birds can also be disrupted by visual, noise, and vibration impacts from the wind turbines during construction and operation. This can potentially cause loss of habitat for these birds. Wind turbines also have the potential to effect the migration of birds. This can cause a problem because they have to fly further as a result, increasing chance of increased energy expenditure and the potential disruption of linkages between distant feeding, roosting, mounting and breeding areas.[28]

Bats can be affected by wind turbines as well. Two species of bats in the U.S. are the most affected by these structures, the hoary bat and the eastern red bat. It is speculated that the high frequency noise which comes from the blades and motor of the wind mill has a negative effect on the bats' echolocation, causing them to be hit by the blades.[29] It is also said that bats can be killed by the pressure created by wind turbines. The sudden low pressure area created around the spinning blades causes a condition called barotrauma in bats when they fly through that area of drastic pressure decrease. Barotrauma occurs when one goes from normal pressure to low pressure very quickly causing the air in the lungs to expand, damaging them in the process. According to one study, barotrauma can account for as much as 50% of bat fatalities caused by wind mills.[30]


Noise Emissions is a common complaint for local citizens due to the large mechanical rotating blades. Small and medium sized wind turbines can produce noise levels up to 95 dB. This is, however, improved from old noise levels, which reached up to 120 dB.[31]

The visual impact of wind turbines is a very controversial topic. Many find wind turbines to not be very aesthetically pleasing and consider them to be an eyesore on what should be untouched landscape. Many people are supporters of wind energy, but just do not want to be effected by it. This concept is called NIMBY, or Not In My BackYard.[31]

Like any other large structure, a wind turbine can create a very large shadow when the sun shines. When the rotor is stationary, the shadow is normal. However, when the rotor is turning, it can create a strobe effect from the rotors cutting through the sunlight. This can be very unpleasant to people in surrounding areas, such as buildings. If multiple shadows cross, this can multiply the effect to cause increased discomfort.[31]


Wind turbines have the potential to have adverse effects on tourism in certain communities that rely on their landscape to attract tourists. Many people find wind turbines to be unattractive and may be deterred from visiting a place because of that.[32] There is also a potential for wind turbines to decrease property value in surrounding areas. A decrease is not always the case, but in certain cases, it can occur.[33]

Policy, issues, and legislation

Without a tax credit, wind energy would be an disadvantage to producers. In 1992, the renewable energy production tax credit of 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour was established. In February 2009, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congress acted to provide a three-year extension of the PTC through December 31, 2012.[34] Wind projects that were up and running in 2009 and 2010 can choose to receive a 30% investment tax credit instead of the PTC. The investment tax credit is also an option for wind projects that are in service before 2013 if the final construction is complete before the end of 2010. Smaller wind farms (100 kW or less) can receive a credit for 30% towards the cost of installment of the system. The ITC, written into law through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, is available for equipment installed from October 3, 2008 through December 31, 2016. The value of the credit is now uncapped, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[35]

In order to ensure wind energy's future in the energy market, the renewable electricity standard (RES) is a policy in which market mechanisms guarantee a growing percentage of electricity produced comes from renewable sources, like wind energy. The RES exists in 28 states (not at a national level). An example is the Obama-Biden New Energy for America plan, which sets future goals of rapid renewable energy production at 10% by 2012.[35]

A pressing issue of concern is the lack of a modern interstate transmission grid which delivers carbon free electricity to customers. Currently the US Senate and the Natural Resources Committee have reported the bill out of committee on June 17, 2009. A combined energy and climate bill is expected to be considered by the full Senate this fall. In the US House of Representatives the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a comprehensive energy and climate bill on May 21, 2010.

The clean air and climate change policy is goal to switch from fossil fuel energy sources to renewable carbon-free energy sources for electricity production. Generating 20% of U.S. electricity from wind would be the climate equivalent of removing 140 million vehicles from the roadways. Currently the US Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works has control over the legislation and will begin to complete a markup by September 25, 2009. The House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act on June 26, 2009, comprising a provision to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% below 2005 levels by 2050. It also allocates a portion of the allowances given away for free to energy efficiency and renewable energy. However, the allowances flow through state governments rather than directly to renewable generators.

Overall federal funding for community wind research and development is insufficient and even more so when compared to other fuels and energy sources. In 2009 the US Department of Energy (DOE) received $118 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for wind energy research and development. In 2010 the Senate passed a bill granting the DOE $85 million for the DOE wind program. For the same purpose, the House of Representatives allowed the DOE $70 million.

See also


  1. ^ "Community Wind Power Benefits: Local communities get a piece of the action". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  2. ^ a b Stefan Gsänger. Community Power Empowers Discovery Channel.
  3. ^ a b Victorian community goes it alone on wind farm ABC News, July 25, 2008.
  4. ^ "Pukwis Community Wind Park". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  5. ^ Community-Owned Wind Development in Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, Paul Gipe, Wind Works, published 1996. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
  6. ^ Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Co-operative, Copenhagen Environment and Energy Office, published 2001. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
  7. ^ a b Community Wind Farms[dead link]
  8. ^ [1] Danish Island Is Energy Self-Sufficient April 4, 2007
  9. ^ [2] CBS news 2007/03/08
  10. ^ "Samsø Energy Academy". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  11. ^ "Dutch Farmers Ready For Wind Energy". 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Energy4All Press Release, December 5, 2005, Westmill Wind Farm Celebrates Success of Public Share Launch. Retrieved on November 14, 2006. Archived January 4, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Energy4All Press Release, February 1, 2008. Fresh Wind Farm. Retrieved on March 8, 2008.
  15. ^ "Westmill Wind Farm". Westmill Co-op. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  16. ^ Vestas Celtic Retrieved 6 July 2007. Archived June 30, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Green Energy press release. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
  18. ^ "Findhorn Ecovillage". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  19. ^ Boyndie Co-operative Retrieved 6 July 2007.[dead link]
  20. ^ Hardin Hilltop
  21. ^ "Welcome to National Wind". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  22. ^ "Little Rock Wind To Develop Utility-Scale, Community Wind Farms". 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  23. ^ "Goodhue Wind To Develop 78-MW Community Wind Project". 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Houx, Ramona Du. "Fox Islands Electric Cooperative — a model for community wind". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  26. ^ "Community Wind Power". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  27. ^ a b "Wind Power: Economic Development for Rural Communities" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  28. ^ Assessing the impacts of wind farms on birds - DREWITT - 2006 - Ibis - Wiley Online Library. 2006-03-27. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2006.00516.x. 
  29. ^ "Bats take a battering at wind farms - environment - 12 May 2007". New Scientist. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  30. ^ National Wind Watch®, Inc.. "Barotrauma is a significant cause of bat fatalities at wind turbines". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  31. ^ a b c
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ a b

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