UMaine researchers create U.S. community renewable energy website

A database of more than 6,000 community-based renewable energy projects nationwide developed by University of Maine researchers is now online. The website will aid those interested in pursuing group, shared, municipal or nonprofit energy projects to connect, learn from each other and develop.

“Community energy is a growing movement in the U.S. and around the world,” says assistant professor Sharon Klein of the UMaine School of Economics and lead scientist on the project. “People are adopting sustainable energy technology and strategies — renewable energy, energy efficiency, conservation — in groups and/or on shared property, in contrast to the traditional individual adoption.”

The U.S. Community Energy Website (USCEW), developed through a grant from the UMaine Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, provides a centralized knowledge base of existing projects and contacts that can support research and reduce barriers to, and improve opportunities for, community renewable energy.

Community renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and biomass, emphasizes the importance of meeting growing energy needs of present and future generations, while addressing social, environmental, economic and technological challenges.

Traditional renewable energy regulations, policies and programs in the U.S. often focus on individual choices operating in isolation. However, approaches that consider collective action and the relationships among individuals, technological information and social institutions may be more effective at advancing widespread renewable energy technology because they build on the power of shared knowledge, trusted networks and existing communities.

“Now that the website and associated database are publicly available, we hope people with direct knowledge of community renewable energy projects will add new project information or correct information on projects already in the database to keep it growing, accurate and current,” Klein says. “We want people to login and get involved, not just look at the site.”

The site includes a list of 6,334 community renewable energy projects that can be sorted and filtered to differing levels of specificity. From the homepage, visitors can create a free account and login to add a new project or request access to update information on an existing project. This is a key feature Klein and her team are hoping people will use to keep the website current and growing. Registered users also can download the full data set into a spreadsheet.

The site has a Facebook link, and more social media options will be added to help people connect with individuals and information that can help them start their own community renewable energy projects.

Contact: David Sims, 581.3244