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CIVIC PROJECTS


A NEW BREED OF ONSHORE WIND FARM


Wind energy has been around for quite a while now. Onshore projects have been brought forward for development for many years, but almost exclusively by commercial developers and operators. A small niche in the market has been created by community facilities, but these tend to be modest in size or linked to a commercial facility anyway.


CIVIC PROJECTS


But now there is a new breed of onshore wind energy facility coming forward: civic projects. These are promoted and developed by local authorities, but differ from the others in important ways. Whilst the projects are publicly funded, and therefore owned by the public, they are developed and operated on a fully commercial basis. These are a genuine half-


way house between commercial and community schemes and offer significant benefits. Importantly, they will help support the wind industry over coming years.


REASONING


It is said that the primary reason why any local authority wants to become involved in climate change is to improve its carbon footprint. However, there are more pressing reasons in most areas. The recession has hit everywhere, including the public sector and there is a real need to find new ways to deliver services and create growth and jobs.


At the current time, the green agenda and the normal corporate agenda of a local authority are perfectly aligned. What this means is that every local authority wants to boost its income, wants to help the local economy to get going, by creating jobs and new businesses, wants to lead by example and improve its effectiveness and efficiency. Whilst it is difficult to identify how they might do this generally, the renewables agenda offers the perfect solution. By developing renewables projects, they can tick all of the boxes that they want and still make some money to be ploughed back into local services.


IDEAL POSITION


And local authorities are in a good position to do this: they own huge tracts of land across the country, can borrow money very inexpensively (circa 2-3% currently) and understand how to harmonise development with planning policies. As such they are able to bring forward many new and different sites for wind farm development that might otherwise never get developed.


DEVELOPMENT EXAMPLES There is a growing number of examples of this type of development. Preston City Council has a proposal for a 9 MW wind facility on land it owns near the docks; Bristol City Council is currently constructing a 4 MW facility on its land. Also Rochdale is keen to pursue a wind strategy intending to develop a range of sites across its land holdings.


BETTER UNDERSTANDING


The commercial sector should be pleased with these developments. They offer more work and projects, but perhaps more importantly a better understanding from those authorities about the stresses of bringing such schemes to fruition. This can only be a good thing for future wind energy development.


Stephen Cirell www.publicsectorenergy.co.uk


www.windenergynetwork.co.uk


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