The combination of resource limitations, national security concerns and the impact of pollution on public health and the climate present a significant challenge for future generations. While we believe clean energy projects are an important part of the solution to those issues, we are also investing in the next generation of science, technology and energy leaders. We call them: the Wind Generation. As an extension of our community outreach activities, First Wind sponsors a number of programs which engage and support students interested in science and technology
Since 2010, First Wind has issued 77 scholarships worth over $300,000 to young men and women across the country as part of its First Wind Scholars program. First Wind has provided $3,000 scholarships for college-bound high school students from our project communities who have an expressed interest in science, technology and/or the environment. Additionally every year, there is one $5,000 scholarship renewable for up to four years for select students from the applicant pools.
The Wind Kids
The catalyst for our wind energy projects in the Milford Wind Corridor was preliminary research and analysis conducted by Andy Swapp and his students at Milford High School. Since then, First Wind and the Wind Kids have collaborated on numerous learning opportunities as the project proceeded to construction and operations. Watch the Video
In May of 2012, First Wind began a strategic partnership with DonorsChoose.org in order to enhance the company’s community giving in locations where First Wind develops and operates clean energy facilities. Through the DonorsChoose program, First Wind supports teachers and their innovative classroom projects around the country. In its second full year, First Wind funded 43 projects at some 31 schools which reached and positively touched nearly 2,600 students.
Wind and solar energy are both clean and renewable which helps offset two of the most damaging effects of conventional electricity generation - air pollution and natural resource depletion. However, like any other form of development, construction of wind and solar energy facilities does have impacts. Utilizing our in-house team of environmental scientists, we consider habitat and wildlife impacts during every step of the development process - from initial planning to construction to erecting transmission lines. In addition to adherence to numerous local, state and federal permitting standards, First Wind develops innovative solutions to mitigate and manage environmental and habitat impacts.
The KWP Habitat Conservation Plan
Preserving Hawai‘i’s unique environment is essential to First Wind when planning and building wind projects. Our commitment to the environment continues during the operation of the facility and extends beyond each project’s area footprint. Before beginning construction, First Wind conducted environmental surveys to document any threatened and/or endangered (“T&E”) species living in the project use area. At Kaheawa Wind (“KWPI”), environmental surveys revealed that there were four (4) T&E species that may use, pass through or live near the area: the ‘Ua‘u (Hawaiian Petrel), the ‘A‘o (Newell’s Shearwater), the Nēnē (Hawaiian Goose) and the ‘Ōpe‘ape‘a (Hawaiian Hoary Bat). To minimize any impact that construction or operations could have on these species, First Wind worked with both the State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (“DLNR”) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (“HCP”). KWPI’s HCP was the first of its kind for a wind project in the United States and First Wind is proud to have included a HCP for each of its wind energy projects in Hawai‘i. Tasked with implementing the HCP, First Wind has a full-time team working on each site to protect and monitor native plants, wildlife, and their habitats.
For KWPI, First Wind also worked with the State of Hawai‘i DLNR - Division of Forestry and Wildlife to support the construction of a new Nēnē captive-release pen. The release pen enables Nēnē raised in a captive propagation program to enter the wild population in a setting that affords the highest likelihood of survival to adulthood.
The Makamaka‘ole Seabird Mitigation Project is also part of First Wind’s extensive conservation program undertaken by the company to provide benefits that will mitigate potential impacts of the Kaheawa Wind projects. This project is located approximately ten miles west of Wailuku where two fenced enclosures are constructed to protect the ‘Ua‘u and the ‘A‘o. The enclosures feature barriers intended to keep non-native predators out of the habitat. In addition, each enclosure will contain specific features designed to attract ‘Ua‘u and ‘A‘o to nest, including artificial burrows, custom decoys and a sound system that broadcasts shearwater and petrel calls. The plan was designed in cooperation with the State of Hawai‘i DLNR, several local and international consultants and experts, and has received considerable support from neighboring communities.
Clean Energy From a Brownfield
On the windy shores of Lake Erie, the abandoned remnants of a long-closed steel manufacturing plant sat in ruin. The land was useless to most other industries and the soil was too polluted with arsenic and semi-volatile organic compounds for the site to be easily reclaimed. However, the location had one major attribute that had been overlooked in the past: an excellent wind resource.
Before construction could begin, the site needed to be capped and stabilized to ensure it was safe for our workers. Our site reclamation experts conducted a detailed environmental assessment of the entire 1,100-acre site, and then placed 40,000 cubic yards of clean soil over the area to help protect wind farm workers from chemical contact. With the soil in place, First Wind graded the surface to improve drainage and reduce the potential for erosion. Once we resolved the major threats to the area, we began re-vegetating the site with plants that would thrive on the windy lake shore. Three years later, First Wind expanded the project to include six additional turbines. Today, the two Steel Winds projects combined generate more than 90 million-kilowatt hours of clean electricity each year, enough to power 13,000 homes in New York. First Wind not only reclaimed a ruined environment, but transformed it into a symbol of economic and industrial rebirth.
Responsible Siting in the Northeast
Whenever possible, we try to build projects in areas that have been previously disturbed. For instance, at our Stetson and Rollins projects in Washington County, Maine, both sites have been used for timber logging for many years. The Mars Hill project in Mars Hill, Maine, is sited on the back side of a ski hill.
In addition to careful siting, we have in place an extensive series of screening, analysis, and field tests we conduct both before and after we build a project. This includes extensive testing of vernal pools (where appropriate), wildlife surveys, bird and bat activity and more. At our Sheffield project in Vermont, First Wind has sought to be as minimally invasive as possible by pioneering the use of narrow site roads and compact turbine pads, and by protecting local streams and groundwater through the installation of an extensive drainage system to clean water run-off and protect local habitat. Testing by state authorities has shown that water quality of local streams near the project in some cases has actually improved since the construction of the project.
Protecting Desert Ecosystems at Milford Wind
Though sometimes harsh, the desert ecosystem can be fragile, requiring extra care and special consideration when building a wind energy facility. Prior to the construction of our project in Milford, Utah, we consulted with a team of biologists to analyze the local habitat and minimize environmental impacts. For example, in order to protect nine active raptor nests discovered in the vicinity of the site prior to construction, we created a Raptor Action Plan, which included a monitoring and reporting program for known and new nests, and prescribed alternative construction methods.
Aside from educational and environmental benefits, economic benefits accrue to communities through property tax arrangements, income from land leases with local landowners, and increased local business activity to support development, construction and operations. Wind projects also help stabilize electricity costs for consumers, support numerous manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs and contracting opportunities, and provide tax revenue and/or direct community benefit funds for host communities. Tax revenues from the project can help fund road repairs, restoration of parks, police and fire departments, local schools, library services, and many other budget needs. These types of expenditures normally require a town to raise taxes.
First Wind frequently sponsors many local organizations and events and First Wind employees also take on an active role in the community. Employees at many First Wind offices have created fundraising teams and participated in local events benefiting charitable organizations. First Wind sponsors their employees in non-profit events such as the “Battle for a Cure” and “Relay for Life” for the American Cancer Society. In Hawaii, First Wind employees regularly volunteer with local organizations and companies to clear invasive grass and weeds to encourage the growth of native Hawaiian vegetation, and also plant more native plants and trees in the area around our projects. Waimea Valley’s outdoor amphitheater was renovated through funding provided by First Wind and many First Wind staff volunteered their time and hard work to assist during the restoration of this historic amphitheater.
For more information on First Wind's Community programs, please contact us below: