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

By Rainforest Action Network

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.