June 19, 2018
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Anti-wind groups holding back Fox Islands’ growth

By Adam Lachman, Special to the BDN

As a small-business owner on Vinalhaven and someone active in community energy, I’ve been disheartened with the ongoing debate on the Fox Islands Wind Project. The discourse, thus far, has been framed largely by a minority of self-interested parties who do not seek solutions based on the community working together to benefit the sustainability of our island residents.

Energy is not perfect and inherently presents choices. Given the threat to the long-term sustainability of our working islands, the communities of the Fox Islands made the right choice in developing local, clean, community-owned wind power that will help to support our long-term working island population while demonstrating to the state and nation that we can reduce our environmental effect on our planet.

In response to the issues raised by neighbors who have objected to the community wind project, it is important that we as a community acknowledge the work of the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative to address the sound issues, and to work on these issues in an honest, productive manner as a community and not through lawyers and Augusta bureaucrats.

Some facts to consider:

After one year of production, Fox Islands Wind has exceeded its power projections. This has resulted in further benefits for the ratepayers by lowering the cost of electricity and providing a clean, locally generated alternative to the expensive fossil-fuel-based alternative.

Both the working year-round and seasonal population of the Fox Islands continue to strongly support the community wind project.

Fox Islands Wind is community-owned and all the benefits of the project go solely to the roughly 2,000 ratepayers of the cooperative.

George Baker does not benefit financially from Fox Islands Wind. Baker and the Island Institute generously donated significant time and expertise to help design a creative financial model by which the community retains sole ownership and decision-making capacity over the community wind project.

The complaints of Fox Islands Wind Neighbors have cost the communities of Vinalhaven and North Haven more than $150,000 in legal and sound consultant expenses that are paid in the form of higher utility rates. This is before exhausting the process of working through the community on developing effective solutions.

Fox Islands Wind and the cooperative are working tirelessly to address the sound issues. From soliciting the help of the nation’s top sound scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories to conduct technical and subjective studies, to continually pursuing open, productive dialogue with the community, the cooperative remains committed to working on collaborative, constructive solutions.

It is time to bring in a more productive spirit and acknowledge that we need to come to the table with an open, honest mind to work as a community with the cooperative, Fox Islands Wind and our neighbors — not lawyers.

Adam Lachman of Vinalhaven is a small-business owner and co-founder of the Island Energy Task Force.

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