Westmill wind farm working for Watchfield
May 2008: The ground-breaking community cooperative wind farm located in the Vale of White Horse District Council area of Oxfordshire started generating green power in late April / early May.
A public Grand Opening, plus an annual general meeting for members of the Westmill Wind Cooperative, were held on 3rd May and attracted 600 enthusiastic attendees to the site near Watchfield village. These included the environmentalist and writer Jonathon Porritt, who made a congratulatory speech on the occasion of the opening. Project creator Adam Twine was over the moon.
Initial work had begun on the site in August of 2007, and the turbines were up by February. More information about the scheme is available at www.westmill.coop.
Success! Vale of White Horse gains another landmark
February 2008: Westmill Wind Co-Operative announced the successful erection of five beautiful wind energy generators at the new wind farm site in south-west Oxfordshire. The community-owned wind farm is expected to start generating electricity equivalent to over 2,000 homes in March. It is the latest milestone after years of hard work by the landowner Adam Twine, his supporters, and specialist energy co-op facilitator Energy4All. The turbines, which were funded by investments of as little as £250 and special loans from the Co-Operative Bank, will generate over 11 million units of electricity every year.
Spectacular Response to Westmill Wind Farm Co-op Share Issue
March 05: The local wind farm co-operative was overwhelmed by response to their share offer: £4.2 million was sent in by the public to support and have a stake in the UK 's largest community-owned wind farm, in Watchfield, Oxfordshire.
Westmill Wind Co-Operative Share Offer
October 2005: Now is the time to register your interest in investing in a significant local green power scheme. The Westmill Wind Co-Operative is launching its share issue on 7th November and anyone interested in supporting this forthcoming 5-turbine wind cluster in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, is invited to send in their details. Download the leaflet and registration form here from Energy4all, the experienced group who brought the successful Baywind Co-Op to Cumbria and are organising the Westmill venture, or get in touch with Gabriel Berry at TV Energy for more information.
Green light for Westmill Wind Co-op: Cluster wins planning consent!
On 13th July 2005, Vale of White Horse District Council issued planning permission for five Vestas V52 wind turbines at Watchfield Farm, Westmill, giving the green light for the first on-shore wind farm in the South East.
Construction will start in Spring 2006 and the local community, through Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative Ltd, will own and operate the entire project, thus maximising the social and economic benefits to the area. The £6 million project will be 100% community-owned and will provide enough green electricity to power about 3,700 homes.
A public share issue will be launched this October with membership open to everyone interested in securing our shared future. People can receive further information from visiting www.energy4all.co.uk or 01229 821028. The co-op is based on a one-member-one-vote system, regardless of investment level, and run by a locally-based board of seven directors.
"This is a great opportunity for people to co-own a wind farm and do their bit in the fight against climate change and dwindling energy supplies. We are very pleased the Vale has issued planning permission so we can launch the public share issue in October 2005" said Steve Lunn, a director of Westmill Wind Co-op. We relish this important task of building the region's first wind farm, which uniquely for the UK will be owned by those who live in the area. The minimum investment in the co-op is purposely set low at £250, to allow the maximum number of people to get involved."
The 6.5 MW wind farm, at Westmill, Highworth Road, Watchfield, near Swindon, was approved at a development control meeting on 14th February 2005, bringing to an end nearly four years of deliberation by the Committee. The planning process was yesterday completed when the consent was issued following negotiations on the Section 106 Agreement.
The development is the fruit of a collaboration between Adam Twine, the landowner and energy champion, Energy4All Ltd and Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative Ltd.
Invitation to Tender for construction of the site will be issued in August 2005. Construction will take six months with the turbines operational by October 2006. The five turbines will stand 81m tall and produce no pollution relying entirely on the free renewable wind resource for power. Green electricity will feed into the local distribution network by underground cables from the substation.
Westmill Wind Win 2
The latest attempt at derailment of the planning application by opponents of the Westmill Farm Wind proposal was rebuffed by a special meeting of the Vale of White Horse DC's Development Control Committee on 14th February 2005.
An opponent had complained about technicalities in the original process which resulted in plan approval in October. It was being alleged that the positive reasons for the decision were not adequately stated at the time and that the arguments against the scheme were not properly treated.
However, on Monday the elected members of the Committee had read all relevant new correspondence and agreed by 9 votes to 8 that no new material considerations (whose practical consequences for the legal agreement had not already been fully discussed and consented to by the applicant and the Council) had been introduced since the decision. The members then proceeded to discuss the reasons for the decision, and it was once again agreed by the same margin of votes that the requirements of Planning Policy Statement 22 were sufficiently met. There were conditions in place to ensure the wind turbines would only be permitted to stand whilst producing energy (i.e. verifiably selling power to the electricity grid within specified periods), and hence actively saving CO2 emissions.
One political grouping on the Committee block-voted against both these decisions and appeared intent on obstructing or holding up the application by any technically permissible means, using the implicit threat of the scheme's opponents calling for a judicial review of the Committee's decision. However, the Chair was scrupulous in ensuring the meeting was conducted in a proper way by consulting the Support Services Officer and the Director of Environmental Services at any points of possible doubt.
There was a genuine issue over the potential cost of decommissioning being greater than previously thought, but the applicant had already agreed to amending the legal agreement and conditions accordingly and so this potential stumbling block was dealt with relatively quickly.
As with the original decision, the environmental benefits of the Westmill wind plan were seen by the majority of councillors to outweigh the plan's possible disbenefits on other grounds, such as the moderate visual impact. The Director of Environmental Services, in consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chair, was duly delegated to complete the details of the legal agreement and proceed with signing off the permission.
Westmill Wind Triumph
Local farmer Adam Twine's battle to improve wind cluster plan ends in victory after Vale of White Horse planning decision on 28th October 2004. See the full report here on the Westmill Wind Co-operative website.
Westmill Wind Co-Op Launched
The sails of England's first community-owned wind farm project have been given a decisive lift with the launch on Saturday 13th June of the Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative. Local farmer Adam Twine and partners Energy4All hosted scores of interested people at the official launch of the co-operative, which is designed to make the project for five turbines at Westmill Farm (near Watchfield, Oxfordshire) a reality.
The ceremonies kicked off in the morning at nearby Farringdon, where potential investors from the general public were able to view an exhibition about the scheme in the old Town Hall. At 2pm speeches were heard from Adam Twine, Harvey Tordoff (Director of Energy4All Ltd) and Cllr Steve Leniec (Farringdon Town Council). Adam spoke of the importance of concerns about climate change in inspiring this action. Harvey Tordoff recounted Adam's long and dogged struggle to realise his dream of producing green electricity from wind turbines at the site on his land. He explained his own organisation's role in assisting the community wind initiative using their unique pioneering experience with the Baywind project in Cumbria.
Harvey also answered questions from the floor on the co-operative. Cllr Leniec gave a warm speech on the reasons why the Council was backing the project, emphasising the need for local, sustainable energy sources such as this one, including the role of feedback from Farringdon residents saying renewable energy was among their very top priorities for a healthy community. As if to confirm their keenness, the hall was full up with about 50 or so people squeezing in to hear the speeches.
At 5pm 200 participants, supporters and the media gathered on the planned site on the Airfield at Watchfield Farm to celebrate the launch with kites, streamers, marquees, excellent refreshments, live music, special poetry dedicated to the occasion and a brief word of thanks and encouragement from the main organisers. Then it was on to the ceremonial turf removal, where everyone could 'dig in' and contribute to the foundation hole for the first wind turbine.
The opportunity was taken by those present to register online for more details on how to get involved through personal investments (large or small) in the wind co-op. The Westmill initiative has planning permission for five 850kW Vestas turbines, which could provide electricity to the grid equivalent to about 2,200 local homes, and offsetting over 4,000 tonnes of the climate change gas CO2 every year. An appeal has been made against the district council's decision to refuse permission to increase this contribution to community sustainability significantly.
The plan had been to use slightly larger Bonus machines, increasing the blade length by just 5m, thereby raising the amount of CO2 offset annually by about 40%. The tower height would have remained the same and the turbines would actually have turned slower and hence with less noise and visual impact.
Adam Twine told us, I am excited that this will be the first 100% community-owned wind farm in southern England, and also excited that it's all happening at last. However, there is still frustration felt at the irrationality of the decision by certain district councillors to turn down the better option.
Westmill Wind Farm Latest
On 19th April, at 5 hour long special meeting of the Vale of the White Horse District Council's planning committee, a decision was made to refer the planning application for five 1.3MW Bonus wind turbines at Westmill Farm, Watchfield to the Secretary of State to decide upon.
Despite one political group's best efforts to scupper the existing planning permission for five Vestas 850kW machines, the good news is that the Committee finally gave the all clear for development following some small conditions that needed to be discharged.
If they had been granted permission, the Bonus turbines would have been quieter, and slower while producing 40% more clean, green electricity than the Vestas. No vote was taken about whether the Bonus 1.3MW turbines should be given permission. At the last meeting in October 2003 the vote was 8 against and 7 for the Bonus turbines. If a vote had been taken matters may have taken a different turn, as this time it seemed one of the councillors, who had previously voted against the plan, was wobbling the other way.
There has been very strong local support for the Bonus application, which has been under consideration since 2001, from the majority of the Vale's planning group and from local people. There was clear frustration about the wasted opportunity to use quieter and more efficient turbines on the site. Local supporters feel angry that the referral to the Secretary of State will waste more time while in the meantime, the effects of climate change are becoming ever more apparent and there are still no major renewable energy projects in the area.
Adam Twine, the site owner, has however had enough. He plans to begin constructing the five 850kW turbines in early 2005. Through the setting up of a local co-operative and share issue in the turbines, the plan is significant in that the site will become not only Oxfordshire's first wind farm, but also the first 100% community- owned wind farm in Southern England.
Adam plans to launch the Westmill Wind Co-operative on Saturday 12th June with an exhibition in the Old Town Hall in Faringdon market place, followed by a celebration party at the wind farm site at Westmill Farm with the digging out of the first foundation for one of the wind turbines. More details about the launch will be added to the TVE website as they become available.
Chance for Community Owned Wind Power in Oxfordshire
An exciting project to enable local people to invest in what could be the South East's first community owned wind farm hangs in the balance.
Planning permission for 5 wind turbines on a farm in Oxfordshire is due to be considered on the 19th April 2004 at a special council meeting called by the Vale of the White Horse District Council. The case was first considered at a meeting in October 2003, when Vale Councillors voted 8 to 7 to reject the application pending more research.
At the meeting in April a final vote will be taken on the Westmill Wind Farm proposal based on the latest research into potential impacts on a local airfield, noise and visual issues. Local supporters hope Councillors will agree the environmental and economic benefits are significant and approve the proposal.
Should the project be given the green light, the construction of 5 Bonus 1.3MW wind turbines, each with a tower height of 50m and a blade length of 31m will get underway this year. The site already has planning permission for 5 Vestas wind turbines (see notes for editors below). The Bonus machines have an extra blade length of 5 metres, but more efficient and generate 40% more energy.
The site is located next to a main road (the A420), and forms part of a family-run organic farm. The wind farm will produce enough clean, non-polluting electricity to supply the average annual needs of up to 3,700 homes and prevent the release of about 11,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main gas that contributes to global warming. The wind farm will also serve as an excellent educational focus for environmental awareness for schools and other interested parties.
Whatever the outcome of the planning application for the Bonus turbines, the Baywind Energy Co-operative Ltd. have committed to take the Westmill Wind farm forward as a fully Co-operatively owned local project. Baywind are a renewable energy co-operative based in Cumbria with six wind turbines and more than 1,300 shareholders, who have received annual dividends of 6 to 8% per annum to date. In addition to returns on their shares, local people will benefit from an energy conservation and education trust which will be set up with a percentage of the total scheme income.
Annette Deveson of TV Energy is hopeful. "This is a very forwards looking scheme and deserves the support of the Council. Members of the public will be able to invest in their local wind farm and get a share of the economic benefits. Plus everyone will share in the environmental benefits of clean energy generation and we will be making progress to meet the South East England Renewable Energy Target of 10% by 2010."
Second Thames Valley Wind Blow Out
On the 23rd October, at a special Planning Committee meeting of the Vale of the White Horse District Council held in Uffington, Oxfordshire, Council Members voted narrowly against the development of five 1.3MW wind turbines on an old airfield site near Watchfield.
The site at Watchfield already has planning permission for five wind turbines. The latest application was to change the wind turbine model to one with a 5 metre longer blade length, but identical tower height. This would have allowed 40% more power to be generated from the site.
Councillors considered representations against the scheme from the National Trust, CPRE, local residents and parish councils all of whom had concerns over visual impacts on the surrounding countryside, noise and safety issues at a local gliding club.
Speaking in support were: TV Energy on the need for renewable energy and the regional renewable energy targets; local residents on the local support for the project; a woman living close to a wind farm in Cornwall who had initially objected to wind turbines on her doorstep but had since found that they caused no detrimental impacts and a climatologist from Oxford Brookes University who spoke about the reality of climate change and its impacts, caused by carbon dioxide production from the burning of fossil fuels like gas and oil.
One of the Councillors who voted against the scheme made the comment, 'I can see the advantages and there is a case for renewable energy, however I don't think I would like to drive to work each day and see these wind turbines in the local landscape'
TV Energy Managing Director Dr. Keith Richards said, 'It's a real shame that NIMBYism has struck again in the Thames Valley. A recent application for a single wind turbine next to the M4 in West Berkshire was also turned down recently with visual intrusion being used as an excuse by local people keen on 'not in my backyard' principles. It's disappointing that the Committee members did not take into account the views of the vast but silent majority of people in this county who support wind energy and local wind energy schemes.'