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Community Owned Wind Turbine Paves Future Sustainable Model

The wind turbine in Avonmouth industrial estate, accompanied by solar farms
Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Aug 30, 2023
4 minutes read

A community owned wind turbine in Bristol is doing wonders for the local community. Located near Bristol Docks, the biggest onshore wind turbine in England generates 4.25 megawatts of electricity at its peak, which is enough to power 3,500 homes. The blades themselves are 115 metres in diameter and are looked after by the local community.

Onshore wind may not sound like the sort of technology that is able to combat poverty, but it’s also tackling climate change at the same time. In Lawrence Weston, a mixed estate of private and social housing, around 3,000 homes are on benefits and not in a stable financial situation. Thanks to the community owning the wind turbine, they can generate income to benefit everyone.

Start-up finance from local and central government was difficult to get hold of, but the majority of the money they needed was generated from open market loans. The £5 million investment paid for the turbine, which now pays off investors and generates money for the community every time it’s spinning.

Now the turbine is in action, the sky’s the limit. Helping to regenerate the local area, a £2.1 million community centre is being built. The community has even designed 36 affordable homes for those in need of housing. In terms of the environment, the area has moved away from gas boilers and is installing EV charge points too.

Bristol is even home to the first 25 passive houses. A passive house is the only internationally recognised standard of energy efficiency whereby a home produces more energy than it uses whilst still being comfortable for the occupants. They are incredibly well insulated, don’t cost much (if anything) to operate and run on renewables. By making use of solar panels and batteries, they remove their reliance on the grid whilst providing it with exported electricity.

The onshore wind turbine is about a mile away from Lawrence Weston in an industrial estate, so it’s out of sight for most people. It generates around £140,000 a year, and that’s while it pays off around £500,000 in debt annually. Once investors have been paid off, the money will be kept in the local area to help with regenerative efforts.

Despite these benefits, only one other onshore wind farm has been built and is operating in England this year. The government has not moved from its position on onshore wind since 2015, even though wind power is one of the cheapest available in the market today and can provide energy security. Opposition is softening though as projects like this highlight their advantages.

The key to this project is public ownership. Not only does this help gather support for future plans, but the profit doesn’t go into the hands of billionaire CEOs. When you own something, you’re more likely to look after it and see it in a more favourable light. This is also true with onshore wind turbines. With all the good work that has been going on in Lawrence Weston, the community is looking to see how far they can extend projects like these to bring more onshore wind to the UK.

Both engagement and ambition are paramount. While there are about 300 community owned energy projects across the UK, most of them have varying levels of ownership, often with shareholders or owners who aren’t local to the area. Local ownership is truly the way to secure energy and financial security for your area. What’s more, you’ll never look at the weather forecast in the same way again. As an island nation, the UK needs to look at ways in which it can secure the futures of all areas.

Looking to get some energy security of your own? Why not install solar panels on your property?