Community Wind Power Is People Power In Action
Without a doubt, community wind power is the most exciting development in the wind industry and many would say that the future of wind energy will be dominated by this emerging trend.
So what are we talking about here?
Community wind power is the term used to describe people banding together in co-operatives to purchase and install their own wind turbine(s) to service their local power needs.
Europe leads the way, but make no mistake, the movement is spreading as a growing number of people realize the benefits to be gained by being involved in such projects.
Why Community Wind Power?
Generally speaking, people from many countries, are now favorably disposed towards wind power. This has been a gradual process from initial resistance to the siting of turbines anywhere near their place of residence to a positive response, as they realized that this was an effective way of producing clean energy.
So people have grown accustomed to the presence of wind farms, scattered around the country-side in their particular country.
At the same time, a small wind industry (as opposed to the large turbines) began to develop, where smaller household turbines emerged onto the market, aimed directly at the home owner. The marketing focused on home owners installing these turbines on their own properties, as an effective way to reduce their energy costs and contribute to a healthy environment.
This market segment is still growing – and growing fast. However, it is not without its difficulties and challenges. Urban environments are not always suited to small wind turbines as our pages on rooftop wind power and wind power for homes point out.
Aggressive marketing, often with direct misrepresentation of the products and what they can produce by way of power for the home owner, has seen a lot of disappointed consumers.
Enter the concept of community wind power, where people began to understand that by pooling their knowledge and resources, they could own a turbine, enjoy the power for their own needs and even make a profit on the excess power sold to the national grid.
With wind turbines, the large turbines of the type usually seen in wind farms, produce significantly more power than their smaller brothers. Size really matters.
So in the United Kingdom, Germany, France & Denmark, to name some of the leaders in community wind power, we have co-operative groups raising money, putting up their own money, securing loans and getting government or private sector grants – all for the purpose of setting up and operating their own wind turbines and reaping the benefits.
Developing A Community Wind Power Project
Community wind power is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It takes time, effort, persistence, knowledge of State and Federal government programs as well a diverse collection of skills.
On the other hand, the pooling of people together addresses at least some of those issues and, in addition, there is good information available from other successful community wind projects.
Is community wind power for everyone?
It all depends. Such projects are best suited to rural land owners, existing co-operatives, schools and colleges & consumer-owned utilities. People in densely populated urban areas may find it a lot more difficult because of the location issues. However, every situation is unique and with the proper research and advice, a potential project may turn into a reality.
If the wind industry is ever going to realize its full potential then community wind is going to be a powerful contributor to that success.
The key requirements for successful community wind power
There can be considerable variation with regard to success factors but the following seem to be the key factors involved in a successful project.
- A solid foundation of community support with evidence of previous successful community projects
- A core group of members who have good business and planning skills
- Access to seed funding through a charitable foundation or trust or through commercial lenders
Likely obstacles to be overcomeLack of marketing expertise can make it difficult to attract the necessary supportGovernments have the unfortunate habit of always changing policies and regulations, making it a problem for long-term planningProblems arise with bureaucratic delaysThe forecasting of long-term cash flows, for example 25 years, is a difficult process
The benefits of a community wind power project
The benefits that accrue are considerable and are summarized as follows:
- A strengthening of local communities as people experience the power and satisfaction of working together to achieve a common objective
- There is a significant increase in environmental awareness
- There is the production of renewable energy
- The profits generated by the project can be used in a variety of ways including a return to the shareholders and the support of other community projects.
Perhaps you can become the catalyst for a community wind project in your area. Why not? It only takes a few like-minded people to get tings moving. Recruit your supporters wisely and tackle the challenges with enthusiasm. The resulting benefits are so important - the environment benefits, the community benefits, individuals benefit - all from tapping into a wonderful free resource - the wind.
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