Small Islands Are Biggest Beneficiaries Of Renewable Energy


Block Island Southeast Lighthouse, by Flickr user MJM Photographie (Used under CC License)

Block Island Southeast Lighthouse, by Flickr user MJM Photographie (Used under CC License)

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When it comes to sites where renewable energy can have the biggest impact, it's best to look offshore.

Islands are often cut off from mainland grid infrastructure, which drives up energy costs for the people who live there.

That creates a powerful incentive for switching to renewable sources, and often means there's little if any local competition for renewable-energy projects.

DON'T MISS: World's First Entirely Renewable-Energy Place: Wind-Swept Scottish Island (Feb 2014)

Even so, a wind farm first proposed for Block Island--a popular tourist spot off the coast of Rhode Island--is just now beginning construction.

That wind farm could become a potential milestone for energy in New England, according to a recent Navigant Research blog post.

New England generates relatively little energy locally, instead importing large amounts of coal and natural gas from other parts of the country to fuel its power plants.

Block Island North Lighthouse, by Flickr user MJM Photographie (Used under CC License)

Block Island North Lighthouse, by Flickr user MJM Photographie (Used under CC License)

Enlarge Photo

But the wind farm demonstrates an alternative--one that takes advantage of the region's copious coastlines.

Regardless of whether wind gains traction in other parts of New England, Block Island looks set to benefit from it.

Island residents pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country: up to $0.50 per kilowatt-hour. (The national average is $0.12 per kWh.)

ALSO SEE: What Country Powered Itself Entirely On Renewable Energy For 75 Days?

Even Hawaii's notoriously-high average rate of $0.37 per kWh can't match that.

Deepwater Wind--the company running the Block Island wind farm--claims the project will lower electricity rates by up to 40 percent.

Like many New England tourist destinations, Block Island has a much smaller population outside the summer months.

wind farm

wind farm

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There are only about 1,000 year-round residents, meaning electricity demand shrinks dramatically during the off-season.

That means the wind farm's 30 megawatts of power output will be far more than what the island consumes during most of the year.

MORE: How A Small German Town Became A Renewable Energy Miracle (Dec 2014)

With some form of energy storage, Block Island could become a net exporter of electricity, Navigant says, via a planned transmission line to the mainland.

As with other island communities, residents may soon find that clean-energy sources can resolve past issues with energy infrastructure.

Block Island is just another example of how renewable energy can turn isolation into an asset.

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