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Community of Bristol Secures Funding to Build England’s Tallest Wind Turbine | Energy

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A community group in one of Bristol’s poorest neighborhoods has achieved its funding goal to build England’s tallest wind turbine, despite no central government funding for local wind power generation.

The group of residents of Lawrence Weston, a deprived housing estate on the outskirts of the West Country town, have been awarded £4million and expect to start earthworks for the turbine, which measures 150m from its base at its peak, in June. The wind turbine, with a maximum capacity of 4.2 MW, will sell energy to the grid. The band believe it will bring in at least £100,000 a year.

Mark Pepper, who grew up on the estate and helped found the Ambition Lawrence Weston charity to regenerate the area, said the turbine would bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds for community projects including a new skills training centre. renewable energies and a crisis fund to help local families trapped in fuel poverty.

“The fantastically exciting work begins soon. I am proud of the residents because there have been many challenges along the way and many obstacles have been put in our way,” he said. “Yet the locals remained resolute because they know this could be a game-changer for Lawrence Weston.”

However, he added that the turbine, which will produce enough electricity for 3,000 homes, took eight years to build because the government had made it so difficult to obtain planning permission and had not provided any financial support for communities to produce their own electricity. “Government resistance to more onshore wind has been a problem,” he said. “It’s been a long slog, but hopefully soon the residents will be able to reap the rewards of all their hard work.”

Government research shows that community-owned energy provides 12 to 13 times more social and community benefits than equivalent commercial installations. Proceeds from the Lawrence Weston program will be used in part to help estate families unable to heat their homes and keep lights on as energy prices rise. “A lot of residents here have prepaid meters – if they can’t afford to put in the money, they’re effectively cut off,” Pepper said. “We see a lot of people running out of gas and electricity.”

Other regions are keen to follow Bristol’s lead, with around a third of the 220 local groups linked to Community Energy England interested in developing similar onshore wind projects. But the organization is only aware of a handful of small-scale community turbines that have been erected in England since the Conservative government of David Cameron tightened planning laws, requiring, unlike other projects to infrastructure, proof of local support, as well as the end of financial support. . Although wind projects were allowed to apply for grants again in 2020, only commercial-scale wind farm developers were able to meet the minimum energy threshold.

The government’s new energy strategy, which was released last week, has disappointed many community energy campaigners. There is no earmarked funding for community projects and no targets for increasing onshore wind power generation, even though it is considered the cheapest and fastest way to generate electricity. The strategy only promises to consult “a limited number of communities” to develop turbine projects in exchange for lower energy bills.

The Lawrence Weston turbine, which will be erected on scrubland owned by Bristol City Council in the nearby industrial town of Avonmouth, is due for completion next spring. The electricity it produces will be sold to the national grid. The vast majority of funding comes from Thrive Energy, a renewable energy investment company, which provided £4m for the project. Other funders included Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority.

Andrew Garrad, visiting professor of renewable energy at the University of Bristol, said the turbine would be the “largest in England”. Garrad, who sits on the board of the energy company created by Ambition Lawrence Weston, added that the height and size of the turbine allow it to capture the maximum amount of wind. “The energy collected by a wind turbine increases with the square of the diameter – so if you double the diameter, you get four times the energy,” he said. “And the higher you go, the more energy you get because the wind is blowing harder.”

A shorter turbine would not have been economical. Project Development Manager David Tudgey, who took the turbine through the planning and financing cycles, said: “We had to go for the highest possible turbine for the site as there is no grants available – something smaller wouldn’t have made enough money to benefit the local community.

Tudgey added that ministers should create a national community energy fund to allow others to copy Lawrence Weston: “Communities across the country need help setting up similar programs that tackle energy poverty and climate change”.

Matthew Clayton, managing director of Thrive Renewables, said the funding would allow them to build and commission the turbine. “Local projects like these will play a fundamental role in the future energy system, providing clean electricity that will help lower bills and generate income that can be reconnected to the community,” he said.