VINALHAVEN, Maine — There will be new transformers, poles and other equipment to improve electricity service to customers on this Penobscot Bay island.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will provide a $593,000 loan guarantee for Fox Islands Electric Cooperative. The cooperative provides electricity to 1,700 homes and businesses on Vinalhaven and adjacent North Haven.
General Manager Charles “Chip” Farrington said Tuesday that the money will be used to help the utility continue upgrading facilities and services. This money will be used for new transformers, electrical regulators, poles and meters. He said the meters will be one level of technology below “smart meters.”
He said while none of this money will serve North Haven, the cooperative has invested money for North Haven during the past four years.
The majority of the electricity on the island originates from three wind turbines erected in 2009. He said 60 percent of the electricity stays on the island and the remaining 40 percent is sold to ISO New England, the regional transmission operator. The turbines provide more electricity in the winter when winds are greater and the excess power is sold to ISO during that time.
The cooperative was able to sell electricity to ISO for 14 cents per kilowatt-hour during the past winter and in January was able to lower the rates for customers on the two islands to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Generally, the price for customers is 10 to 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, Farrington said. By comparison, the current standard offer rate paid by residential customers of both Central Maine Power Co. and Emera Maine is about 7.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The loan to Fox Island Electric was one part of a $540 million package of loans provided nationwide to improve electrical services in rural areas, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Electric reliability is a critical component of the success of our rural economy. Today’s loans will help continue to ensure the safety, reliability and affordability of electric service in rural areas,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the news release. “This funding is part of the Obama Administration’s vision for a new rural energy economy. Investments in smart grid technologies help rural electric cooperatives improve system operations to meet the needs of rural customers.”