ROCKLAND, Maine — The Fox Island Wind project is an example of creative solutions achieved by communities to local challenges, a top federal official said Tuesday.
Dallas Tonsager, under secretary for Rural Development with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spoke at the Maine State Ferry Terminal in Rockland after a tour of the three wind turbines on Vinalhaven.
“Every community comes up with its own solutions,” Tonsager said.
Rural Development’s role is to provide financing for these projects, he said. Rural Development provided loans and grants of $10.5 million to the $14.5 million project that was completed in the fall of 2009.
George Baker, chief executive officer of Fox Island Wind LLC, said that the wind project has reduced the cost of electricity on Vinalhaven from 28 cents per kilowatt hour to 24 cents per kilowatt hour.
“This is still a high price for electricity but it’s a significant reduction,” Baker said.
The wind turbines produce enough electricity to serve the island community over the course of a year, he said. During the summer when the population increases and the winds are less, electricity must be bought, but at other times there is an excess of electricity and it is sold. Baker said overall, Fox Island Wind is a slight net seller of electricity.
The under secretary said the federal agency supports thousands of community projects across the country each year. He said they include energy, housing, school and hospital projects.
“These are exciting times,” Tonsager said.
The agency also has supported Vinalhaven by providing more than $4 million for its wastewater system and nearly $1 million to support two apartment complexes.
After his tour of Vinalhaven, the under secretary was scheduled to go to the Island Institute headquarters in Rockland and communicate with officials and residents of several islands through distance learning technology.