Community wind energy is generated by wind turbines that are at least partially owned by local landowners and other community members, and often take the form of "wind turbine cooperatives", also known as "wind energy cooperatives". As of 2008, community wind developments have been small-scale. Community wind co-operatives operated in Europe since the late 20th century, and are the leading form of wind turbine ownership in Denmark. Cooperatives and other forms of community wind turbine ownership have also developed in other countries.
Financially, community-based wind projects are structured much differently than traditional wind farms. In the traditional model, the company that builds and manages a wind farm retains sole ownership of the development. The owners of the land on which the wind turbines were built usually have no stake in development, and are instead compensated through lease payments or by royalty-based contracts.
The more people that become involved through community wind power, the more democratic the energy supply system becomes. Energy sellers make a profit, landowners receive leasing fees, communities get improved infrastructure, local people get jobs, governments receive taxes, and consumers receive electricity at competitive prices.
Currently, companies following a community model comprise only a small portion of the overall wind energy industry. In comparison to traditional wind companies, community wind businesses tend to develop smaller-scale projects, often less than 50 megawatts (MW).
The Hepburn Wind Project is wind farm proposed wind farm near Daylesford, Victoria, north-west of Melbourne, Victoria. It will include two wind turbines which should produce enough power for 2,300 households.
This will be the first Australian community-owned wind farm. The initiative has emerged because the community felt that the state and federal governments were not doing enough to address climate change.
Community wind power is in its' infancy in Canada but there are reasons for optimism. One such reason is the launch of a new Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program in the Province of Ontario Feed-in tariff. A number of community wind projects are in development in Ontario but the first project that is likely to obtain a FIT contract and connect to the grid is the Pukwis Community Wind Park. Pukwis will be unique in that it is a joint Aboriginal/Community wind project that will be majority-owned by the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, with a local renewable energy co-operative (the Pukwis Energy Co-operative) owning the remainder of the project.
In Denmark, families were offered a tax exemption for generating their own electricity within their own or an adjoining commune. By 2001 over 100,000 families belonged to wind turbine cooperatives, which had installed 86% of all the wind turbines in Denmark, a world leader in wind power. Wind power has gained very high social acceptance in Denmark, with the development of community wind farms playing a major role.
In 1997, Samsø won a government competition to become a model renewable energy community. An offshore wind farm comprising 10 turbines (making a total of 21 altogether including land-based windmills), was completed, funded by the islanders. Now 100% of its electricity comes from wind power and 75% of its heat comes from solar power and biomass energy. An Energy Academy has opened in Ballen, with a visitor education center.
In Germany, hundreds of thousands of people have invested in citizens' wind farms across the country and thousands of small and medium sized enterprises are running successful businesses in a new sector that in 2008 employed 90,000 people and generated 8 percent of Germany's electricity. Wind power has gained very high social acceptance in Germany, with the development of community wind farms playing a major role.
Sixty-three farmers in De Zuidlob, the southern part of the municipality of Zeewolde, have entered into a cooperative agreement that aims to develop a wind farm of at least 108 MW. The project will include the installation of three phases of 12 wind turbines with capacities of 3 to 4.5 MW each. The aim is to put the wind farm into service in 2012.
The Netherlands has an active community of wind cooperatives. They build and operate wind parks in all regions of the Netherlands. This started in the 1980's with the first Lagerweij turbines. Back then, these turbines could be financed by the members of the cooperatives. Today, the cooperatives build larger wind parks, but not as large as commercial parties do. Some still operate self-sufficiently, others partner with larger commercial wind park developers.
Because of the very unproductive state policies for financing wind parks in the Netherlands, the cooperatives have developed a new financing model, where members of a cooperative do not have to pay taxes for the electricity they generate with their community wind park. In this construction the Zelfleveringsmodel the cooperative operates the wind park, and a traditional energy company only acts as a service provider, for billing and energy balance on the public grid. This is the new role for energy companies in the future, where production is largely decentralized.
Baywind Energy Co-operative was the first co-operative to own wind turbines in the United Kingdom. Baywind was modeled on the similar wind turbine cooperatives and other renewable energy co-operatives that are common in Scandinavia , and was founded as an Industrial and Provident Society in 1996. It grew to exceed 1,300 members, each with one vote. A proportion of the profits is invested in local community environmental initiatives through the Baywind Energy Conservation Trust. As of 2006, Baywind owns a 2.5 megawatt five-turbine wind farm at Harlock Hill near Ulverston, Cumbria (operational since 29 January 1997), and one of the 600 kilowatt turbines at the Haverigg II wind farm near near Millom, Cumbria.
Another community-owned wind farm, Westmill Wind Farm Cooperative, opened in May 2008 in the Oxfordshire village of Watchfield. It consists of five 1.3 megawatt turbines, and is described by its promoters as the UK's largest community-owned wind farm. It was structured as a cooperative, whose shares and loan stock were sold to the local community. Other businesses, such as Midcounties Co-operative, also invested, and the Co-operative Bank provided a loan.
Community-owned schemes in Scotland include a three V27 wind turbine system near the manufacturer Vestas's Scottish base in Kintyre, operated by Gigha Renewable Energy Ltd. which is capable of generating up to 675 kW of power. Gigha residents control the whole project and profits are reinvested in the community.
Findhorn Ecovillage has four Vestas wind turbines which can generate up to 750kW. These make the community net exporters of renewable-generated electricity. Most of the generation is used on-site with any surplus exported to the National Grid.
Boyndie Wind Farm Co-operative is part of the Energy4All group, which promotes community ownership. A number of other schemes supported by Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company are in the pipeline.
National Wind is a large-scale community wind project developer, with thirteen families of projects in development or operation. These projects have an aggregate capacity of over 4,000 MW. The vision of the company is to revitalize rural economies by promoting investment in domestic renewable energy resources. National Wind creates shared ownership with communities and allows them participation in decisions which are made.
In March 2009, National Wind formed Little Rock Wind LLC, its 7th Minnesota-based, community-owned wind energy company. The company will develop up to 150 MW of wind power within Big Stone County, Minnesota, over the next 5 to 7 years.
Goodhue Wind LLC is a community wind development company in Goodhue County, Minnesota. The company intends to develop a 78 MW wind farm, which will supply electricity to Midwestern utilities and ultimately to Midwestern homes and businesses. Goodhue Wind expects the project will be operational between late 2009 and early 2010.
In a community-based model, the developer/manager of a wind farm shares ownership of the project with area landowners and other community members. Property owners whose land was used for the wind farm are generally given a choice between a monthly cash lease and ownership units in the development. While some community wind projects, such as High Country Energy in southern Minnesota, issued public shares after the project’s formation, investment opportunities are usually offered to local citizens before the wind development is officially created. 
A wind turbine cooperative, also known as a wind energy cooperative, is a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise that follows the cooperative model, investing in wind turbines or wind farms. The cooperative model was developed in Denmark. The model has also spread to Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, with isolated examples elsewhere.
Some places have enacted policies to encourage development of municipally owned and operated wind turbines on town land. For example, virtual net metering laws in Rhode Island allow towns to take credit for electricity produced and apply it against any of their town electricity accounts. The first two towns to consider taking advantage of this law are Portsmouth and Barrington, although many other towns are now considering this option.