Windpower 2013: Ripe Market Conditions for Community Wind Projects

windpower_2013I attended the AWEA WINDPOWER 2013 Conference & Exhibition in Chicago yesterday, where a variety of companies gather each year to collaborate and explore industry opportunities. Although many trends were discussed, one notion that came up was the unique opportunity for community wind projects to thrive in the current economic climate.

From schools to tribal reservations to corporate campuses, community wind is a growing sector in the wind energy industry that involves local involvement and ownership. Although projects are often of smaller scale than investor-owned or third-party industrial wind farms, community wind projects possess qualities that are uniquely suited for the renewable energy market for 2013.

As Ray Henger, Chief Financial Officer of OwnEnergy, Inc. said, community wind projects can be developed with greater velocity.  They typically use existing transmission infrastructure, thus not requiring major infrastructure upgrades. Using a local partnership model helps boost community support and reduces “not in my backyard” mentality from local stakeholders.

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“There’s nothing better than seeing the benefits of the project flow to the people that live with it,” says Michael Rucker, Chief Financial Officer of Juwi Wind. Community wind benefits include greater economic diversity, job creation, tax generation, and income to landowners. Community support for a given project can make a tangible difference for wind energy developers – obtaining permits more quickly and easily for popular projects.

“We have excellent access to quality, cutting edge turbine equipment,” says Wes Slaymaker, president of WES Engineering Inc, a company that advanced three community wind projects in 2012. “Unlike a few years ago, turbine manufacturers and contractors now are eager to work on community-based wind farms.” The supply bottlenecks that recently plagued the industry are not currently an obstacle.

The speed of wind farm development is particularly important for projects that seek to take advantage of the one year extension of the production tax credit. This requires that the project reach the construction phase during 2013, a feat that is difficult for many large or unpopular projects.

“I commend all the business and community leaders that are helping advance wind energy development,” says Slaymaker. “There is an excellent opportunity right now for companies, schools, and municipalities to control their energy costs, and show leadership in reducing their carbon footprint.”

[Image credit: Wes Slaymaker]


Sarah Lozanova is a green copywriter and communications professional specializing in renewable energy and clean technology. She is a consultant for Sustainable Solutions Group and a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Home Power, Earth911, and Green Builder. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine.

7 responses

  1. I really like the idea of local ownership in wind projects. Many wind farms are developed by huge multi-national companies, with components manufactured abroad. They come in as outsides and don’t understand the local communities. At least the local communities benefit from the tax revenue, jobs, and leases, but not from the energy production.

    The community wind model is a breath of fresh air in the wind energy market. Thanks for highlighting this.

    1. Who cares if the components are made abroad. If the product is of good quality and cheaper to buy from there instead of here, it benefits society to buy the more affordable good.

      1. It keep more of the money in the community and lowers the carbon footprint of transporting wind turbines. Just the hub of a 2 mW turbine can weigh 8 to 10 tons.

        1. You forget the transportation over water is excessively easier then land. 8 – 10 tons is really nothing by barge.

          Still you ignore the increased costs of transporting in all the (tons of) raw materials to the new location of production, the increased wages it will cost to produce the turbines, political and union red tape mattering employment for the construction, and a crap ton of those things that will effect the production and construction.

          Basic economics will show that you just removed and drained a ton of money from the community building turbines here then transporting in pre-built units that have “some assembly requires.”

  2. Even if the project isn’t owned in the community, there are so many benefits. Land owners can get $10,000 or more dollars per year just for having a turbine up. Considering this is usually rural farm land, that’s top dollar. It usually brings some long-term maintenance jobs along with it too, especially for larger projects.

    1. The price of solar has come down considerably lately, so that helps solar. Epic (outside of Madison WI) recently installed both a wind farm and solar field, but on different sites.

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