1. How expensive is electricity on Swan’s Island and Frenchboro and how does that compare with the National average?

2. How much electricity does Swan’s Island use in a year?

3. What is the monthly electrical consumption of an average Swan's Island or Frenchboro home and how does that compare with the National average?

4. Does Swan’s Island have enough wind for a wind turbine?

5. How much energy could wind turbines produce on Swan’s Island?

6. How much would islanders save on their electric bills were a wind turbine to be built?

7. If Swan’s Island had a wind project would that mean that we wouldn’t have to rely on mainland suppliers any more?

8. Where would the wind turbines be placed and how many would there be?

9. How could Swan’s Island afford to purchase wind turbines? How would such a project be financed?

10. Don’t wind turbines make noise?

11. Aren’t wind turbines dangerous to birds and bats?

12. What is the life expectancy of a Wind Turbine?

13. Are other islands looking at turbines?

1. How expensive is electricity on Swan’s Island and how does that compare with the National average?

The average household on Swan’s Island and Frenchboro, using about 500 Kilowatt hours monthly, pays about 30 cents per kilowatt hour. Maine Residents on the mainland pay about 15 cents per kilowatt hour, while the national average is around 9 cents per kilowatt hour. These figures include transmission and distribution charges.

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2. How much electricity does Swan’s Island and Frenchboro use in a year?

The Swan’s Island Electric Cooperative purchased 2.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity during the 2009 calendar year.

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3. What is the monthly electrical consumption of an average Swan's Island or Frenchboro home and how does that compare with the National average?

The average home on Swan’s Island and Frenchboro uses around 500 kWh/month or 6,000 kWh/year.

The average U. S. household uses about 750 kWh per month, or about 9,000 kWh annually.

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4. Does Swan’s Island have enough wind for a wind turbine?

Our two year wind study concluded that the average wind speed on Swan’s Island is about 5.8 meters per second, or approximately 13 miles per hour. This is more than adequate wind to produce most of our power needs with one turbine of the same type and size as the three erected on Vinalhaven. Our preliminary analysis, using Vinalhaven projections, found that our wind resource appears to be about 40% more powerful than the resource on Vinalhaven.

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5. How much energy could wind turbines produce on Swan’s Island?

Energy production will depend on what size and how many wind turbines are constructed as well as average wind velocities. The Electric Cooperative is examining the possibility of constructing one wind turbine of the same size and type as the ones on Vinalhaven.  Because our wind resource is about 40% more powerful than Vinalhaven’s, one turbine can be expected to produce more than 5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

Since Swan’s Island and Frenchboro use  2.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, at first glance it might appear that one turbine could produce all the power that we need and have lots left over for resale.  However, the wind blows strongly much of the time, and sometimes not at all.  During times of calm, the wind turbine would produce no power and the Cooperative would be buying power at retail rates, as it does now, from the mainland. When the wind blows strongly, we would be producing more power than the island needs and the excess power would be transmitted across our undersea cables and sold at wholesale rates on the mainland.

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6. How much would islanders save on their electric bills were a wind turbine to be built?

Now that our wind study is concluded, studies of the economic benefits of a wind power project are underway, A formal Feasibility Study, scheduled for spring and summer of 2010, will provide more specific predictions of savings, possibly as much as 20%.  But more importantly a wind turbine would stabilize electricity rates on the  Island – largely detaching our rates from the roller coaster ride caused by surging prices of natural gas, coal, and oil  which dictate electricity rates on the mainland, and which we have experienced for the past five years.

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7. If Swan’s Island had wind turbines would that mean that we wouldn’t have to rely on mainland suppliers any more?

Swan’s Island and Frenchboro would still depend on mainland suppliers for electricity, especially during times when winds are calm. (Wind speed must reach 7 miles per hour before the blades of a wind turbine begin to turn and power is generated).  However, we will be selling much more power to the mainland at wholesale rates than we will need to purchase from the mainland at retail prices.  These power sales will be a means of reducing our own Island rates for electricity while helping to pay for the cost of the Wind Turbine Project.

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8. Where would the wind turbines be placed and how many would there be?

The Electric Cooperative has evaluated six potential wind turbine sites on Swan’s Island. There are many factors which must be present for a site to be considered. They include elevation (wind resource), proximity to a good road and to the electrical grid, environmental impacts, distance from year-round homes, and accessibility for large vehicles and equipment.   Each site is being evaluated with these factors in mind.

The MacDuffie Site, on the western edge of the Island ,along with the Stockbridge Hill Site, in the center of the Island, are currently considered to be the most promising.
(See map and potential wind turbine site descriptions.)

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9. How could Swan’s Island and Frenchboro afford to purchase wind turbines? How would such a project be financed?

The Electric Cooperative is investigating several financial/ownership models which have been successful for small communities in other parts of the country and may meet our needs. Competitive Federal grants, low interest and no-interest Federal loans are possible sources of funds. Another option entails combining grants and loans with offering shares to Electric Cooperative members allowing them to own part of the turbine(s).  Additionally there are several Federal tax incentives for the production of renewable energy which could play a role in making a wind turbine project financially feasible.  A formal Feasibility Study planned for Spring and Summer of 2010 will help define the many issues and provide suggestions on the best way to finance the Project.

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10. Don’t wind turbines make noise?

The blades passing through the air can make a “whooshing” sound and mechanical parts or unusual wind currents can produce a steady “hum” or “whine”.  However, ambient wind noise is usually louder than any noise produced by wind turbines and modern wind turbines are significantly quieter than the smaller, older models of the 1980s and 1990s.  The Cooperative is taking note of developments on Vinalhaven where several individuals close to the three turbines have expressed annoyance at some of the turbine sounds under certain weather conditions (strong winds, or when a dense fog, low cloud ceiling,  or other kinds of weather inversions are present).  While these conditions and potential operation modifications are still being studied on Vinalhaven, the Swan’s Island Electric Cooperative has taken steps to factor in larger setback distances between its planned turbine location and the closest year-round homes.

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11. Aren’t wind turbines dangerous to birds and bats?

An environmental impact assessment will be completed before any turbines are erected on Swan's Island.  Studies, to date, at several existing wind farms (Mars Hill, and Hull, MA) indicate that concerns about dangers to birds have not materialized. The National Wind Coordinating Committee reported in a 2006 literature study that only 0.01% to 0.02% (or 1 of every 5,000-10,000) of all avian deaths caused by anthropogenic activities are wind turbine related.

Studies suggest that ultrasound from wind turbines does not detectably attract bats. (From J. Szewczak et al. Ultrasound emissions from wind turbines as a potential attractant to bats: a preliminary investigation. 2006.  An investigative report submitted to the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative. Bat Conservation International. Austin, Texas, USA.; and Avian Collisions with Wind Turbines: A Summary of Existing Studies and Comparisons to Other Sources of Avian Collision Mortality in the United States. NWCC. 2001). However, before the community votes on the project and it is brought to permitting agencies, several months of avian studies will be performed in order to ensure that the turbine siting minimizes any potential impacts to birds. Once the turbine has been erected, post-construction monitoring will take place to verify that avian impact in minimal or non-existent.

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12. What is the life expectancy of a Wind Turbine?

About 20 years.

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13. Are other islands looking at wind turbines?

The Fox Islands Electric Cooperative has erected three General Electric 1.5 megawatt turbines on Vinalhaven. Monhegan has voted to move ahead with a 100 kilowatt wind project to supplement its diesel-supplied electric power.

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This site was made possible by a grant from Island Institute.