When people call our information hotline, one of the most common things I tell them is to learn as much as they can about projects that have been done before. Timing and other circumstances mean that no two community wind projects will ever be identical, but you can learn a lot (and avoid reinventing a whole bunch of wheels) by reading up on other projects.
Not surprisingly, when I say other projects, I usually mean, and I think others assume I mean, other successful projects. I suppose this is because successes are more fun to think about than failures, but failures can be just as instructive.
Unfortunately, there’s not much information about failures out there. This morning, however, I ran across an article in the Cape Cod Times talking about the attempted wind project in Orleans, MA. It’s a project that had a lot going for it, including outside assistance and considerable cash investment, but fell apart in “the regulatory and financial maze that plagues municipal wind projects” and the thin economic margins of municipal wind projects. It also sounds like there was less-than-ideal communication with town officials.
There are great examples of successful municipal wind projects (like Moorhead, MN or Palmdale, CA), but the set back at Orleans should serve as a reminder of two very important rules for municipal community wind development:
- Permits! Can’t live without them! Research the necessary permits early and make sure you know what’s required.
- No matter how much you’re communicating with other people in the municipality, communicate more. The importance of clear, ongoing, two-way communication can’t be overstated.