‘Fuel and general poverty’ to be tackled in Lawrence Weston with building of England’s tallest wind turbine
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Change is coming for Lawrence Weston, and positive change at that. With funding secured from Thrive Renewables, a renewable energy investment company, work can begin soon to build the tallest wind turbine in the country.
As one of Bristol’s poorest areas, the hundreds of thousands of pounds that this will generate for community projects could be, quite simply, life-changing.
The £4 million loan is being given to Lawrence Weston-based community group, Ambition Community Energy, despite no central government funding for locally-owned wind power generation having been handed out.
Ambition Community Energy is a community interest company set up by Bristol-based charity Ambition Lawrence Weston. It was established in 2012 by a group of residents who wanted to make the area a better place to live, after a decline in local services.
And a better place to live Lawrence Weston can now become. The 100% community-owned turbine will have a maximum capacity of 4.2 MW, capable of generating enough clean electricity to power close to 3,000 homes – the equivalent of Lawrence Weston’s domestic use – and saving almost 120,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime.
With attention very much focused on improving the UK’s energy security amidst rising energy bills, community-based projects such as this are set to play an important role in alleviating fuel poverty, while also helping to create local, green jobs as part of a just transition.
Groundwork for the wind turbine, which will be on a site on industrial scrubland in nearby Avonmouth is expected to start in June, with the 115-metre diameter, 150-metre tip height turbine becoming operational in spring 2023.
This comes after more than eight years of campaigning and raising awareness of needing the funds from Ambition Community Energy, with difficulties getting planning permission and financial support.
Luckily, Thrive Renewables saw the benefits of the proposal. 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.
“It’s also great to see such significant grassroots support for onshore wind and local people taking control of energy resources.”
The wind turbine project will create a new revenue stream for the local community in Lawrence Weston, and all profits from electricity sales will be reinvested back into the area, acting as a driver for regeneration.
With the group also planning to build an Energy Learning Zone, there are plans and dreams in motion to inspire young people and there is the hope that this will provide training to upskill residents for zero-carbon careers.
“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. It will help fund and run our planned new community building,” explains Mark Pepper, the development manager at Ambition Lawrence Weston and someone who grew up on the estate.
“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.”
For David Tudgey, the project development manager at Ambition Community Energy CIC, it’s all about the prospect of acting as a shining light to other communities across the UK.
“There are homes in Lawrence Weston which suffer from poor insulation and low-energy efficiency and, with energy costs continuing to soar, this means even more of our residents will face of fuel poverty,” he says.
“It’s important for us that everyone is included in the clean energy transition, which is why we’ve never given up on getting this project built. Thanks to Thrive, we’re now pushing forward with construction.”
Despite the governments’ new energy strategy, which was published recently, disappointing many of those within the world of community renewable energy, this project is proof that communities are in favour of building new onshore wind farms if they can benefit from local ownership.
And, according to Ambition Community Energy CIC, deploying onshore wind is the cheapest, cleanest, and one of the fastest ways to reduce reliance on foreign fossil fuels.
Hopefully, this humble Lawrence Weston community will pave the way for a bigger and better future across the globe. Andrew Garrad, Visiting Professor in Renewable Energy at the University of Bristol and Director of Ambition Community Energy CIC said: “I have spent over 40 years working in wind energy all over the world.
“Although this is England’s biggest onshore turbine, it’s my smallest ever project. That does not mean it’s been the simplest though – far from it!
“Community energy schemes are difficult and receive no government encouragement. 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. In 2021, 39% of the UK’s electricity was produced by renewables.
“It’s time to let community projects boost that figure.”