Could a £3m wind turbine project in Oxford lead the way?

Oxford City Council – and former Renewable Energy Focus editor Paul Spencer - have revealed plans for a £3m wind turbine development on council land in the UK city, purportedly the first on council land anywhere in the UK.

It is hoped that if this development goes ahead, other local authorities could be encouraged to follow suit.

With a capacity of 2.5MW, Tom Brinicombe from project partner Partnerships for Renewables insists that the project could avoid the production of 2,350 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, by supplying green electricity to approximately 1,200 local homes and businesses.

Established by the Carbon Trust in 2006, Partnerships for Renewables’ objective is to work with local authorities to develop renewable energy projects on public sector land. Although the organisation has worked with a number of councils in the past, the approval of the turbine project would make Oxford the first to commit to such a development.

Three other sites within the Oxford area were considered, and one was rejected outright due to local protests. It is likely that the current proposal will receive similar resistance. A survey of 500 residents in the area found that 60% were opposed to the idea, according to local newspaper the Oxford Mail. The residents’ main concern is the 430ft turbine’s visibility from local housing.

But despite these reservations, Brinicombe remains positive about the site’s potential suitability:

“Initial studies have confirmed that the site is located close to local businesses (so could provide green electricity), is accessible for components, not affected by environmentally designated areas and has a suitable wind resource.”

John Tanner of Cleaner, Greener Oxford insisted that the annual payment received from Partnerships for Renewables will be used to benefit the local community: “Wind turbines are quiet, graceful and not a threat to wildlife. Compared to ugly electricity pylons wind turbines are a huge improvement for Oxford’s environment.”

Both Paul Spencer at Oxford City Council and Partnerships for Renewables are confident that the local community will be kept updated and involved throughout the planning process. “We are committed to only developing wind turbines in appropriate locations. If any application is submitted it will be as the result of careful investigation and consultation with the local community,” said Brinicombe.

“The next step will be to start the more detailed study work and submit an application for a temporary monitoring mast to gain a greater understanding of the wind resource on site. We will also probably be submitting a request for scoping opinion before the end of the year.”

He added that they were also in the process of carrying out environmental work on a larger project at a site near the M4, which will accommodate five wind turbines.

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Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power