England’s tallest onshore wind turbine to power 3,000 homes by 2023

The tallest wind turbine in England is set to be built on the outskirts of Bristol after local community group, Ambition Community Energy, secured a £4m loan from Thrive Renewables.

With a 150-metre tip and a diameter of 115 metres diameter, the giant turbine is set to produce enough power for 3,000 homes – equivalent to the domestic demand from the nearby Lawrence Weston housing estate where the Ambition Community Energy is based. The project is expected to save almost 120,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime.

Groundwork for the site is now expected to start in June, with the turbine set to become operational in 2023.

Ambition Community Energy is a community interest company set up by Bristol-based charity Ambition Lawrence Weston, which was established in 2012 by a group of residents who wanted to enhance the area and restore a range of local services. The group said its energy arm would help reduce residents’ energy bills, while also curbing carbon emissions.

“The money generated from the wind turbine will go a long way to address the historic fuel and general poverty that Lawrence Weston continues to suffer,” said Mark Pepper, development manager at Ambition Lawrence Weston. “It will help fund and run our planned new community building. This centre will deliver the community and climate development action plans, written by the residents, and a renewable energy and construction skills academy. These actions will ensure we are well placed to benefit from any ‘just energy transition’ that may happen.”

The proposed Energy Learning Zone will aim to inspire young people and provide training to upskill residents for zero carbon careers, acting as a driver for regeneration, the group added.

Matthew Clayton, managing director at Thrive Renewables, said: “It’s extremely impressive to see the determination and resilience Ambition Community Energy has shown in getting the project to this stage. Thrive’s unique collaborative funding model will enable them to get the turbine built and operational after years of planning work. Locally-owned projects such as these will play a fundamental role in the future energy system, providing clean electricity that will help to reduce bills and generate revenue that can be plugged back into the community.”

The announcement follows the recent publication of the government’s Energy Security Strategy, which left onshore wind developers disappointed after Ministers scrapped proposals to relax planning rules and introduce a new target for onshore wind and solar capacity amidst fears of a backlash from local communities.

Campaigners hope the Lawrence Weston project will provide further evidence that many communities are in favour of building new onshore wind farms if they can benefit from local ownership and reduced bills as a result. Deploying onshore wind is the cheapest, cleanest and one of the fastest ways to reduce reliance on foreign fossil fuels, the group added.

“Community energy schemes are difficult and receive no government encouragement,” said Andrew Garrad, visiting professor in renewable energy at the University of Bristol and director of Ambition Community Energy: “We hope to be able to use our experience to make them easier, so that other communities can make a contribution to the UK’s zero-carbon goal.”

The government did say in its Energy Security Strategy that it was now keen to work with a limited number of local communities that are interested in hosting onshore wind turbines to explore how they could share some of the resulting financial benefits.

However, industry insiders remain concerned that without a relaxation of planning laws to allow for the installation of a new generation of larger turbines that tend to deliver more power at lower cost, community-owned and engaged projects will struggle to fully deliver on their promise.

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