A large crowd of Maine island residents gathered in the Portland Museum of Art last Thursday to hear a lecture presented by Soren Hermansen from Samso Island, Denmark, which since 1998 has reduced its carbon foot print by 140% with renewable wind energy.
The islanders came to learn how they can become more energy independent in their communities. If you think your electric bill is rough, island residents in Maine can pay between 2 and 4 times the main land rate. Through this event and other like it, island residents are making progress to harvest abundant sustained winds like the people of Samso Island. By copying the plan implemented in 1998, Maine island residents are hoping they could not only generate all of their own power but also sell some back to the main land to create a negative carbon footprint.
As Soren points out, wind turbines are the perfect example of easier said then done. There is a lot of investigation that needs to be done to protect the interests of all parties involved. On Samso Island, for example, there was a two-year study done to determine potential negative impact on the local bird refuge. There was also a lot consideration and resulting financial compensation paid to fishermen who stood to lose fishing area. That’s two years of work with out even breaking a sweat or talking to local residents to find out if they even would tolerate an off shore wind farm.
There was a lot of communication with island residents, as everyone had a stake in the project. A few of the turbines were owned by investors, and some by companies, but a few were owned by citizens. They pooled their money to by a three of the turbines, one was owned by 1000 investors after funding from an investor fell through, and another two were split into $600 shares paid by the residents.
The goal of this lecture was to help provide local islanders with a means to build their own energy independence. Soren tried not to give an exact estimate of cost for the project during the Q&A portion of the lecture because he wants people to investigate on their own the unique conditions of an installation. There is no one size fits all solution or price tag when it comes to these projects and citizens must ask one another what will work for them. “We had meetings. It didn’t just happen over night we had to talk about it,” says Soren about the complex diplomacy required to accomplish such a project. Real lasting change starts from the ground up, not the top down and to do that takes years of hard work with local people.
You don’t need to have millions of dollars to make change and you don’t need to be a radical green person to make change. “There are people who are so green they glow at night. Those people you don’t want to work with because you can’t live up to their standards. You’re in your car and you feel guilty when you drive home.”
Soren was quick to point out that the investors were not green people, they were accountants, contractors, and dentists. They didn’t donate millions of dollars; in fact the investors who really made the projects happen contributed as little as $600.
Samso Island are now reaping the benefits of their wind project and generating free power. The typical repayment on a project like this is on average between three to five years but depends on a lot of factors. Regardless, the Samso Island residents have now enjoy the fruits of their labor and can sleep a little bit easier at night knowing that their investment has helped insulate their economy from oil price shocks.