The privately owned Vinalhaven Light and Power Company started operating in 1915, selling electricity to Vinalhaven subscribers. Its coal-fired electric generation plant stood on the western shore of Carver's Harbor at the site of the Fishermen's parking lot. &The plant cost $80,000 to construct. It had dock space for 300 tons of coal, a power-line grid of about 5.5 miles, and two 212 h.p. steam engines that turned two electric generators for a total output of 400 Kilo-Watts. The subscribers to the new Vinalhaven electric service were the town for street lights and offices, an assortment of businesses, and 171 residences. The oil lamps that had lit the island's homes and businesses were replaced by Thomas Edison's "Mazda" incandescent electric light bulbs. For many years there was no need to run the generators all night, so to save the cost of burning fuel, the plant was shut down in the middle of the night and restarted in the early morning. In 1919 the Vinalhaven electric grid was expanded across the Fox Islands Thorofare to North Haven island using a submarine cable .
In the mid-1920's, the plant was converted from coal to diesel-powered generators. Older folks can still remember the loud noise the diesel engines made powering the electric generators. The noise reverberated all over the town of Vinalhaven. In the 1960's the old plant and grid no longer had the capacity to meet the needs of the growing island communities demand for elctricity. A time-share arrangement was implemented whereby half the customers got electricity while the other half of the subscribers had no electricity. Several times during the day electricity was switched back and forth between two different sections of the islands.
In 1975, the antiquated private electric company went out of business. The communities of Vinalhaven and North Haven joined together and created the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative (FIEC). In 1976, the Coop retired the Vinalhaven power plant and laid a submarine cable across the bottom of Penobscot Bay from the mainland to the islands. Since this original submarine cable wasn't buried in the bay, it was prone to outages caused by abrasions due to tidal currents and to boats catching the cable with their anchors.In 2005, the 29-year-old original submarine cable was retired and a new cable installed. The new submarine cable is 9.9 mile long (16 Km) and unlike the first cable is buried six feet deep in the mud of Penobscot Bay. On the mainland the cable begins at a connection point to the Maine Central Power grid, then leaves the mainland at Clam Cove, Rockport and runs out under the bay to North Haven Island. The new cable has 3 copper 1/2 inch diameter conduits and 24 optical fibers. The cable is rated for a maximum capacity of 372 amperes at 59,000 volts.
In 2009, the Coop installed a small, renewable green-energy Wind Farm consisting of three 1.5 Mega-Watt wind generators on Vinalhaven island. The Wind Farm was sized to produce at least as many Mega-Watt-Hours (MWHs) as annually used by the two island communities, approximately 10,000 MWHs. The cost of energy on islands is considerablely greater than on the mainland. The Wind Farm project was the result of our island communties' self determination to control the cost of our electrictity. In the Fall, Winter, and Spring the Wind Farm produces more KWHs than the islands need. We sell the excess KWHs to the mainland over our submarine cable. In the summer the Wind Farm produces fewer KWHs than the islands need. To make up the difference the Coop has to buy KWHs from the mainland. As a result, the island communities annually use 60% of the Wind Farm's KWHs. The Coop sells the remaining 40% to the mainland. The Wind Farm has helped stabilize and reduce the communities' KWHs electricity cost.
Sources of electricity generation in New England in comparison to the Fox Islands Electrical Cooperative.
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