Sometimes we see Community Wind as policies that provide incentives for local ownership of wind farms. In the wind industry Community Wind is often seen as wind turbine technology with a capacity between 100 kW and 1 MW. Driving through states like Texas and Iowa, one sees vast expanses of wind turbines and wonders if the ranchers and farmers have a stake in those wind farms that can benefit their agricultural communities.
Policies, technology, and local benefits are all important aspects of Community Wind, but what matters most is understanding how Community Wind can grow. Unlike European countries that have used Feed-In Tarriffs to grow renewable energy development, the United States is having trouble coming to terms with the call for a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) that would establish goals for clean energy development into the future. We are literally a patchwork of states with independent energy policies, and you can check to see how:
“If a community can invest in a wind turbine, then in the long run that is who is going to benefit most.”
wind utility consultant
While "Drill, Baby, Drill" has been tarnished as a sexy vision for independent energy in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, the old adage still applies: Old is easy—New is hard. Rooftop wind turbines or solar panels providing sustainable electricity for every home and business in America is not feasible today and probably never will be achievable; yet that's the first solution that comes to mind for many people.
Community Wind offers a slightly different vision according to wind utility consultant Tom Wind: “If a community can invest in a wind turbine, then in the long run that is who is going to benefit most from that wind turbine. Large wind farms are often owned by large companies or utilities or corporations and they many not be based in the state. So the benefits from those wind farms largely go, not to the local area, but to the investors in the wind farm.”
It's the communities themselves that will grow Community Wind and help to lead the U.S. towards energy independence and a clean energy future. Yes, the federal government holds responsibility for planning and funding a new smart grid that can support both distributed renewable energy sources and broad energy efficiency programs, but don't assume that If you build it, they will come.
Just as renewable energy sources will be distributed across a vast diversity of sites for wind, solar, hydro, and biofuels; the impetus for a new smart grid, supportive policies, and local funding will come from a vast diversity of communities at the grassroots level. Can that happen? It's already begun.
The City of Gainesville, Florida and the Gainesville Regional Utilities adopted a solar photovoltaic feed-in-tariff in 2009, the first of its kind in the nation:
The University of Minnesota, Morris Campus is a green campus set to achieve carbon neutrality and energy self-sufficiency this year with wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, green buildings, and green vehicles:
Hawaii is working to enact the first state-wide feed-in tariff program that will direct the Hawaiian Electric Co. to pay above-market prices for renewable energy fed into the electric grid at locked-in rates set by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission:
These are just of few examples of how cities, campuses, and states can begin grassroots efforts towards clean energy solutions. In every case there are motivated citizens and local leaders working together to find what can work in their own community. Communities will grow Community Wind, and that's a vision worth following.