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Energy Co-ops and Local Ownership

Ethanol plant, courtesy of Warren Gretz, DOE/NRELCooperatives are businesses owned and managed by the people who use them. There are tens of thousands of cooperative businesses in the United States, managing a wide variety of goods and services, including electricity, insurance, credit, housing, and agriculture.

Wind energy cooperatives enable farmers to pool their resources, meeting the startup capital costs associated with wind turbine installations. Cooperatively-owned biodiesel and ethanol plants offer other benefits too: They tend to increase local prices for soybeans (in the case of biodiesel) and corn (in the case of ethanol). Grower-owners can sell their own commodities to the plant, and are eligible to receive annual dividends. Moreover, biofuel plants provide a hedge against volatile commodity prices. When corn or soy prices drop, so too do the production costs of ethanol or biodiesel, increasing the potential profits from biofuel production.

In short, energy cooperatives allow rural communities to control and profit from their own agricultural resources.

NOTE: Some of the following documents are available as Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Download Acrobat Reader.

ATTRA Publications

Locally Owned Renewable Energy Facilities - IP309


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Ownership Matters: Three Steps to Ensure a Biofuels Industry That Truly Benefits Rural America
By David Morris of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance [PDF/1.4M]
Renewable Energy Policies and Barriers
PDF. A breakdown of factors in renewable energy policies in the U.S. and the barriers that hinder success in some areas. 2004 report.

Success Stories

2005 Wind Cooperative of the Year: Western Farmers Electric Cooperative
Adding Value the Minnesota Farmersí Way
This paper aims to find the economic impact of New Generation Cooperatives (NGCs) and hybrid forms of these structures, and their value-added processes, on farm income that in turn impacts local economic development.
Illinois Cooperative Ethanol Plant Case Study
Illinois Newspapers Analyzes the Benefits of Farmer Ethanol Cooperatives
List of Farmer-Owned Ethanol Plants in the United States
Minnesota Ethanol Cooperative Case Study
Minnesota Farmer Wind Energy Cooperative
USDA Value-Added Development Grants Assist Farmer Cooperatives

Cooperative Support Organizations

Cooperative Ownership of Ethanol and Biodiesel Production Facilities
Includes information on state programs that assist renewable energy farmer cooperatives.
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC)
A national advocacy group for farmer cooperatives.
Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development
This nonprofit organization works throughout the Pacific Northwest to build rural economies through clean, affordable, and distributed energy.
University of Wisconsin
The Center offers extension/outreach programs on all aspects of cooperative business principles, organization, financing, management, and related topics.
Windustry's Wind Farm Network
A discussion forum on wind power resources, economics, technology, and how to develop a wind project.

Energy Cooperative Examples

Citizens Energy Cooperative
A Wisconsin-based energy cooperative, CEC owns and operates large-scale renewable energy systems on behalf of its members, to whom it sells generated electricity.
Cooperative Community Energy
This California-based energy cooperative purchases solar photovoltaic and thermal systems and manages residential, commercial, and municipal solar installation projects.
Corvallis Biodiesel Cooperative
This Oregon-based energy cooperative produces and purchases biodiesel fuel and distributes the fuel to members.
Our Wind Co-op
In addition to being a functioning wind energy cooperative, the organization assists other communities with cooperative-related questions.
Rural Cooperatives: Wind Power
USDA published piece on wind cooperatives in the U.S.
SOAR Energy
An Ohio-based, member-owned solar and renewable energy buyers' cooperative, SOAR formed in late 2001 to develop and serve the market for green power.
The Energy Co-op
An example of a renewable energy co-op in Pennsylvania.


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This page was last updated on: May 20, 2016