The History of Community Windfarms
The modern wind industry grew out of small community owned and run wind turbines
in Denmark. The governments of Germany, the US, the UK, Sweden and Canada
sponsored research programs on very large machines in the early eighties,
these projects went nowhere. It was the small groups of Danish farmers and
rural enthusiasts, boosted by the oil crisis, getting together to buy small
turbines as investments allowed by supportive Danish government policies that
kept the industry going. These small machines were built by local makers of
agricultural equipment who have now evolved into the modern giants of wind
turbine manufacturing such as Vestas, Bonus, NEG Micon and Nordex.
The industry and technology in Denmark grew together and todayís main trend
is for large machines, installed in large wind farms by large developers and
However, the era of the community wind farm is not quite over. In Denmark
75% of wind power is still produced by turbines owned by local associations
and individuals. More than 100 000 families are share holders (wind guilds).
In 2000, Middelgrunden was commissioned, a 40MW offshore wind farm 3km out
of Copenhagen. Half of it is owned by a local utility, with the other half
owned by the largest wind farm coop in the world, Middelgrunden
Vindmoellelaug I/S. The average size of community based projects is much
smaller in terms of installed capacity, averaging 2-5 MW.
Part ownership in windfarms with the local community also occurs in Germany;
for instance, the Aachen-Vetschau wind farm, the two N80 machines for Mahlberg
near Freiburg, or the Badbergen Windpark, are recent examples where utilites
have gone in with locals. In the UK, one of the largest wind power operators
has designed a one stop shop for farmers interested in wind energy to get
involved in addition to their main business of large utility sized windfarms.
Another of itís subsidiaries, is focusing on cooperative forms of small size
wind farms. Another large developer embraces community involvement for a project
in East Anglia. In addition other private initatives in Wales have been active
Sweden, Holland, Spain and France have recently also come up with a number
of community supported wind power projects, which fit into the description
of the Renewable Energy Partnership, an initiative launched in 1999 under
the European Commission White Paper for a Community Stragey and Action
Plan for Renewable Energy Sources by 2010. Under this Program a study
was commissioned in March 2003 on the backdrop of a wind power project in
Ireland with the objectives of obtaining among others, the following insights:
- a comprehensive review of the potential for community ownership of wind
- the various factors influencing ownership and community participation;
- an analysis of international best practice and selection of successful
models of shared ownership experience in Europe
60kw Breamlea wind turbine near Geelong in Victoria. First installed
in 1987, it was built by WA's own Westwind and is similar to the machines
in Esperance that were decommissioned in 2002..
In Australia to date, the only real community owned wind farm was Breamlea,
which is a 60 kW Westwind made in WA and installed in 1987 by the former State
Electricity Commission of Victoria and the Victorian Solar Energy Council
(now Energy Victoria). In 1994, it was sold in poor condition to the Alternative
Technology Association, a Melbourne based NGO with a current membership of
over 3000. Using volunteers they completely overhauled the mechanics, controls
and electricals and had it recommissioned by the 8th of December 1994, before
being sold into private ownership a year later.
It was a community of interest rather than geography.