Monhegan to receive federal funds to upgrade power system

Dec 11, 2013

Monhegan Island will soon receive $420,000 in funding from a USDA Rural Development grant program intended to help communities with exceptionally high electricity costs.

The funds will be used to purchase equipment the year-round community needs to lower electrical costs while making services more efficient and reliable.

“High electricity costs are a huge problem for Maine’s offshore islands and a major threat to their future as year-round communities,” said U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine in a news release. “This critical investment will help Monhegan make its power grid more reliable, more efficient to operate, and less dependent on fossil fuels — and all that will translate into lower bills for island residents. I hope Monhegan becomes a good example of what other islands can do to deal with similar issues. A substantial part of Maine’s coastal economy and identity depends on the sustainability of those islands.”

Currently Monhegan residents pay 70 cents per kilowatt-hour, more than four times the typical rate on the mainland. Improvements could save the community more than $21,000 in energy costs a year.

The grant will fund a 13KW solar system, a new 40KW generator and a new switching system that will allow the power company to switch between different power sources. The new generator will be a more efficient option for producing electricity in the winter, when the island's population drops. The new switch allows the island to incorporate renewable energy sources like solar or wind power.

“It is so exciting to be able to finally integrate renewals with our system here on Monhegan,” said Marian Chioffi with the Monhegan Plantation Power District. “There is no way that our tiny little company could have done it on our own, and we are truly grateful to Congresswoman Pingree and the Island Institute for helping us. This project is a real stepping stone towards our becoming a more eco-friendly company.”

“We are proud to be partnering with the Monhegan Plantation Power District on this critical effort,” said Island Institute President Rob Snyder. “High energy costs are a significant barrier to the sustainability of Maine islands and remote coastal communities, and this project is a reflection of Monhegan’s proactive approach to solving its energy problems.”

In September, Pingree brought USDA Acting Undersecretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien to Rockland so he could learn more about investment needs in the area.

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