Fox Islands Wind, a subsidiary of the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative, will hold a celebration for the residents of Vinalhaven on Tuesday, November 17, to mark the inauguration of three wind turbines on Vinalhaven. The ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m., with a buffet lunch to follow at the wind turbine site on North Haven Road. Governor Baldacci will attend the event.

The event caps the $14.5 million project to erect the first community-owned wind turbines on a Maine island.

"The Fox Islands Wind project is the first community wind project to get off the ground in Maine and we're proud of its progress," said Governor Baldacci. "It provides an example to other communities of the kind of bold steps needed to realize the potential for new jobs, new investments and a new energy future. This is the sort of economic development that will pay dividends for years to come, benefitting local taxpayers, students and making our state more energy independent."

The quest for low-priced renewable energy began in 2002 when the cooperative received a grant for a three-year wind resource study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Renewable Energy Research Laboratory. The study showed that the island had ample wind energy available to provide electricity for its 1,500 year-round residents. In 2005, a new submarine electricity cable was installed between Vinalhaven and the mainland, which provided a stable connection for both the import and export of electricity to and from the island. In July 2008, the residents on both Vinalhaven and North Haven voted overwhelmingly (382-5) to authorize the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative to proceed with the development of three turbines on a site in the middle of the island.

Initial financing for the project was provided by Diversified Communications, a Portland-based media company. Permanent financing came through a loan from the Rural Utilities Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

by Melissa Waterman

"It's a real good feeling to be on the cutting edge," said Phil Crossman, owner of the Tidewater Motel on Vinalhaven. "We look forward to the reduced electricity rates."

Electricity generated by the three 1.5-megawatt wind turbines will go directly into the Maine electricity grid. The cooperative will sell the excess power generated during the winter months to Central Maine Power via the improved submarine cable. During the summer months when the islands' population swells, the cooperative will purchase electrical power from the mainland.

The General Electric turbines were manufactured in Salzbergen, Germany, and shipped to Eastport in August. The three turbines are situated at the top of a 190-foot hill. Each is 263 feet tall and features three 123-foot-long curved blades. The components and all construction materials were brought to the island via barges operated by Prock Marine of Rockland. Anderson Trucking Service of Minnesota then moved the materials to the site approximately five miles north of Carver's Harbor. Cianbro Corporation did the site work, road construction and turbine assembly. EOS Ventures of Massachusetts procured the GE components and performed design work.

According to Alan Grover, public relations spokesperson for Cianbro, "everything went smoothly. And it was finished on time." Prior to the Vinalhaven project, Cianbro constructed a wind turbine on Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Massachusetts, in 2007 and was involved in the construction of transmission and distribution lines for the Kibby Mountain wind project in western Maine. "It's been a remarkable project by a remarkable organization, that being Cianbro," said Crossman about the three-month construction period. "They were such a congenial and friendly group. There wasn't one single significant snafu."