Monhegan Wind Power Project Frequently Asked Questions – PART II, July 2009

(part I)

  • 1. Why is this project called a “community wind” project? How does it differ from other wind power projects?
    “Community wind” can be described as a project where both the ownership and benefits of a project stay within a local community. This model is popular in Europe but due to the way the federal government promotes wind power, the vast majority of projects in the U.S. are owned by private developers. In a privately owned project, an outside developer puts up the money to develop the project (i.e. feasibility studies, permitting) in exchange for retaining ownership and the lion’s share of any economic benefit from the project. The level of community involvement and input accepted in this model varies from developer to developer, but is generally not great.

    MPPD has chosen to follow the community wind model because it believes that any facility that generates power on the island should belong to the community and that the benefits should stay local. This means that MPPD is responsible for managing the process, costs and other risks of wind power development so that savings in electricity can be passed on to ratepayers. The Island Institute has helped to support MPPD in this effort by providing technical expertise (see question 6). In most cases, wind projects do not ask for a vote of residents. However, MPPD will only proceed with this project if both seasonal and year-round residents are strongly in favor of doing so.
  • 2. What is the timeline of this process?
    MPPD has decided to manage this project in three separate phases:
Phase Activities Time Period Estimated Cost Paid By
Phase I Feasibility studies: determining whether or not a project is viable One Year
(8/08 – 8/09)
MPPD, Monhegan Plantation, Island Institute
Phase II Permitting & Financing: meeting state/ federal regulations & investor requirements
Dependent on agencies but potentially by Spring 2010 $100-200,000 Potentially by individual investors or foundations

Phase III
Construction: site prep, turbine installation & commissioning Two months $500,000-$700,000 Potentially by tax equity investor(s) and a low interest loan from the Rural Utility Service

  • 3. Will anyone review the proposed project?
    Yes. If MPPD chooses to move to Phase II after the vote, it will work with a number of professional consultants from engineering and environmental firms to determine exactly what the project will look like. Reports compiled by these consultants will be submitted with permitting applications to be reviewed by state and federal agencies in order to determine whether or not the project meets their strict standards. Investors will also scrutinize the financial aspects of the project to see if it is viable. Question 4 addresses these issues in more detail.
    In addition, any significant funding for the project involving either grants or loans may require a vote of the registered voters on Monhegan.
  • 4. What happens during Phase II?
    During Phase II, MPPD will begin by working with engineers to address the logistics of getting a turbine and crane to the top of Lighthouse Hill. Professional consultants will then begin to prepare comprehensive sound, shadow flicker and environmental assessments, public safety will be evaluated, wind data will be verified, the FAA will be notified and our year-long avian and bat survey will be completed. Contingent on the decision of Monhegan Associates, we will also begin the process of re-zoning a parcel of land on Lighthouse Hill.

    Simultaneously, money will need to be raised to cover both the cost of these studies and the purchase and installation of the turbine itself.

    Once the studies have been completed, they will need to be evaluated by a number of state and federal agencies. For the State of Maine, the Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) will lead the review process while taking input from the Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W). If the review is positive, then LURC will issue a wind energy development permit.

    We expect that the Rural Utility Service will provide permanent financing. Their loan approval process involves not only a parallel environmental review (as part of the National Environmental Policy Act), but also a thorough review of the engineering and financial viability of the project.

    It is important to note that even if MPPD moves into Phase II, the project could be shelved at any point if it does not meet state or Federal standards or if financing does not fall into place. This is a risk that MPPD must manage in order retain the long-term benefits of the project, as it is not likely that a commercial developer would be willing to take on all of the financial risks and lower rates for a project of this scale.

  • 5. How is MPPD addressing potential sound impacts?
    An initial analysis of this single turbine project has shown that it would meet the State of Maine’s sound regulations. If the community votes to move forward to Phase II, this initial analysis will be thoroughly vetted by a professional sound engineering firm and a comprehensive sound study will be produced for the State to review. The project will not receive LURC permitting unless it meets their standards.

    Dr. Dora Mills, Maine’s top health expert and the Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has carefully reviewed the State sound standards and has found that they “ensure that a turbine is located at a sufficient distance from homes so there are not annoying levels of noise” and that Maine’s regulations “compare very favorably” to those in other states and countries. After reviewing medical and public health literature, Dr. Mills has found “no evidence of adverse health effects from the noise generated by wind turbines except for those associated with annoyances from the audible noises…(which) are mitigated or disappear with proper placement of the turbines from nearby residences.” Moreover, Dr. Mills has stated that there are “tremendous” potential health benefits to wind turbines due to their reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. For more on Dr. Mills’ analysis, please see: this article and this one.

  • 6. What is the Island Institute’s role in this project?
    During Fall 2008, MPPD decided to partner with the Island Institute to complete the initial feasibility studies for the wind power project. This decision was based on the Institute’s involvement in the nearby Fox Islands Wind Power project and its mission to enhance the sustainability of island communities through lower energy costs. Since then, the Institute has helped MPPD to weigh various renewable options, convened wind power experts to assess the potential on Monhegan, provided an economic analysis of the project and has supported MPPD in their public education efforts. If MPPD decides to move to Phase II, the Institute could provide support throughout the permitting process and help to identify investors. Through its Community Wind program, the Institute is currently supporting seven other island communities at various stages of their efforts to develop wind power. It will continue to do so regardless of the outcome of the vote on Monhegan.

  • 7. Why was the date of August 12th chosen?
    August 12th was chosen so that the community would have chance to vote on the project before the annual meeting of Monhegan Associates, Inc. (MAI). Depending on the outcome of the vote, MAI has agreed to consider a resolution at their August 21st meeting that would allow a wind power facility to operate on Associates land. If MPPD did not ask MAI to consider this issue in August 2009, it is likely that the issue would not be voted on until 2010 and the Phase II studies would have to be delayed until that time.

  • 8. What is the August 12th vote about?
    A vote is being held in order to determine the community’s level of support for developing the wind power project. Based on its outcome, MPPD will decide on whether or not to continue on to Phase II (performing studies, filing for permits and assembling financing). Due to the fact that a high level of community support is critical to getting investors to put up money for both Phase II and Phase III of the project, MPPD will not continue with the project unless there is strong community support. If the community is not enthusiastic about this project, MPPD will table the idea of an alternative to the diesel system until some other viable option arises.