Energy Co-Ops: Generating All Kinds of Green for Local Communities

Written by Gracelyn Cruden

Topics: Clean Energy

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With all of the panic surrounding stocks, I’m clearly not the only one wondering where I should put my money for the long term. I want to know that my money will support the good, not just pad a CEO’s already fat pocket.

I think I’ve found a solution, nestled in northern England. The Baywind Energy Co-operative is pioneering an incredibly smart model. Local residents invest money in a locally run renewable energy company, putting money right back into their community while ending their reliance on polluting fossil fuels. Talk about improved quality of life.

Baywind’s wind farm co-operative started in 1996, when they offered shares to community members, with a low minimum stock purchase to make it financially feasible for as many as possible. Using the capital they raised from 1,350 shareholders (approx. 2 million pounds), the Baywind co-op purchased their first three wind turbines. A board of directors, elected by the shareholders, runs the day-to day operations. Hyper-focused on community involvement, Baywind uses only local contractors for site development, maintenance, and support.

Hurray for local green jobs!

Baywind Energy Co-Op

As for the investment part, shareholders receive annual dividends amounting to 5-10%. The industry average is 9%. Though co-op members may receive a few less annual dividends, they get clean energy that keeps their air and water free of pollutants while keeping their investment in their community. This sort of ROI goes beyond dollars and cents.

The leadership at Baywind also focuses heavily on education, which they see as absolutely key for progress. They invite local schools and adults alike to visit the wind farm and read their educational materials. Think about how inspiring it is for a young child to see the possibilities of renewable energy right in their backyard!

Through Baywind’s development organization, Energy4All, communities can have assistance with recreating this type of renewable energy co-op in their own parts of the world. Energy4All assists communities in planning, building and maintening a wind farm co-op. Over the past nine years, Energy4All has succeeded in sharing their model with seven different communities throughout England and Scotland.

Let’s hope this renewable energy co-op model spreads far and wide, so that all of us can participate in locally-run, clean, sustainable energy generation that keep jobs, revenue and resources right where they belong.

2 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. kb says:

    hi there,
    interesting piece…you might be fascinated to find out that much of the rural midwest gets its power from energy co-ops, especially in the Dakotas and Minnesota. However, many of these co-ops are outright hostile to renewable energy and change in general. As much as anything with “community” in its mission statement and “coooperative” in its name sounds good, there’s very little in the organizational structure that assures clean energy

  2. winn taylor says:

    Thanks for your article. I read a cool article on water turbines in comparison to wind turbines which estimated that water is more than 800 times denser than air, so for the same surface area, water moving 12 miles per hour exerts about the same amount of force as a constant 110 mph wind. Ocean currents thus contain an enormous amount of energy that can be captured and converted to a usable form. It has been estimated that taking just 1/1000th the available energy from the Gulf Stream would supply Florida with 35% of its electrical needs.

    I’m very excited to watch the advancement of these alternative energy sources.

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