Brooks Winner

The Island Institute hosted the fifth annual Island Energy Conference on November 7, 2014 at the Clarion Hotel in Portland, Maine and November 8, 2014 on Peaks Island. The conference brought together community leaders and energy experts to discuss the common energy challenges facing islands and the innovative solutions implemented by many island communities.

The 2014 conference included over 150 participants, new panel topics, a kickoff meeting for the Islanded Grid Resource Center and an Energy Project Planning Workshop with representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This year’s Island Energy Innovation Award was given to the Star Island Corporation for its embarkation on a project to convert the island to run primarily on solar power.

Keynote Speaker Dr. James Manwell

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. James Manwell from the University of Massachusetts Wind Energy Center, whose pioneering work has included research on the potential to integrate renewable energy into New England island grids.

View Dr. Manwell's presentation

The Saturday field trip to Peaks Island gave participants a chance to see ongoing community energy initiatives on the island. Participants toured the Peaks Island School, which is the largest consumer of fuel oil on the island and in need of major retrofits.  They also visited a home with two heat pumps installed, which was part of a heat pump group purchase on the island.  Finally, participants visited an active community storm window building workshop, and learned about how the windows are built and how they can increase the heating efficiency of buildings.

Through small group discussions and presentations from islanders and other energy professionals, the conference covered a variety of topics. Session descriptions are listed below, along with presentation slides where available.

Panel Topics

Microgrids: The Unicorns Have Landed!

Some experts in the energy world believe that microgrids are like unicorns or Big Foot – elusive at best, imaginary at worst. Many islanders, however, have been living in the magical land of the microgrid for years! This session featured recent developments in microgrid and battery storage technology and case studies of island communities that have built their very own unicorns.

Presentations by:

Getting There From Here: Island Transportation Alternatives

The benefits of fossil-free travel are numerous in small island towns, but very few islanders have made the switch to plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) or full electric vehicles, and our ferries still burn diesel fuel. This panel featured presentations about small towns making big steps to promote electric vehicles and other transportation alternatives, including a presentation from Samsø Island in Denmark about how the community is promoting electric vehicles and building a new ferry that will eventually run on locally-produced biogas. Lee Auto Malls also displayed an electric vehicle and discussed advancements in EV technology and infrastructure in Maine.

Presentations by:

 Collaborating for Island Energy Action: Renewable Energy

Participants in the Collaborative for Island Energy Research and Action (CIERA) shared their experiences researching island renewable energy solutions during a 10-week course with the College of the Atlantic, including a two-week trip to Samsø, an island in Denmark powered entirely by renewable energy. Participants in this panel discussion included representatives from projects on Long Island, Mount Desert Island, and Vinalhaven.

Presentations by:

 Offshore Wind: Best Practices for Community-Developer Relations

As the U.S. offshore wind industry has developed, island communities have found themselves in discussions with developers, regulators, and researchers about the future use of the waters that surround them. This session featured examples of successful communication and relationship building between community members and developers and stories of how islanders have engaged in this process and pursued benefits for their communities.

Presentations by:

  • Kim Gaffett, Block Island and Bryan Wilson, Deepwater Wind - Block Island Wind Farm
  • Marian Chioffi, Monhegan Plantation Power District
  • Jake Ward, University of Maine/Maine Aqua Ventus
Strength in Numbers: Collective Action and Group Purchasing of Energy Solutions

Islanders are used to working together to get things done. Community fundraisers, potlucks, shared barge trips; all of these bring people together to accomplish a common goal. This cooperation and “collective action” approach is being put to use increasingly on the islands and in other remote communities to improve access to energy solutions such as weatherization, efficient appliances and heating systems, and even solar panels. This panel featured stories of communities that have used a collective approach to reducing energy costs through efficiency and renewables.

Presentations by:

 Connecting the Dots: Networking to Accelerate Energy Work

Islands around the world face many of the same energy challenges that we find in Maine.  Innovative solutions that work in one location are often applicable to others, and the exchange of ideas can spur creative approaches to community energy planning and action in many locations.  This session highlighted regional, national, and international efforts to connect communities to share ideas and solutions. 

Presentations by:

Lessons from the Last Frontier: Energy Action in Alaska

Despite their geographic distance, residents of rural Alaska communities share many energy challenges with their counterparts on New England’s islands. Participants in this session learned how remote villages and islands throughout Alaska are taking action to reduce their dependence on imported diesel fuel through renewable energy generation.

Presentations by:

Collaborating for Island Energy Action: Community Energy Planning and Energy Efficiency

Participants in the Collaborative for Island Energy Research and Action (CIERA) shared their experiences developing plans to engage their communities in energy action projects during a 10-week course with the College of the Atlantic, including a two-week trip to Samsø, an island in Denmark powered entirely by renewable energy.

Presentations by:

Energy Efficiency in Island Community Buildings and Businesses

Many island businesses and community buildings struggle with high energy costs, but some have started to lower their energy bills and boost their bottom lines with creative energy efficiency projects. This panel covered funding options and strategies for addressing energy efficiency in community buildings and commercial facilities on islands.

Presentations by:

Innovation with Islanded Grids

Islands and remote communities burning diesel to generate electricity face some of the highest energy costs in the country. This moderated roundtable discussion brought together energy leaders from islanded grid communities to discuss their unique challenges, as well as the innovative approaches they have been taking to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and lower electric rates.

Presentations by:

Farms, Fish, and Energy

Maine and New England are at the forefront of a revolution in sustainable fishing and agriculture and some farms and fishermen are incorporating renewables and energy efficiency into their sustainability practices. This panel featured innovative energy projects from farms and fishing facilities around the state of Maine.

Presentations by:

What’s Hot in the World of Heating Systems

Heat pumps, pellet boilers and other alternative heating systems are becoming more affordable, more efficient, and more available to island communities every year. In this session we discussed how switching fuels and heating systems can help homes, businesses and community buildings reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.

Presentations by:


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