Westmill Wind Farm and Westmill Solar Farm are community electricity generation projects located on the same organic farm in Oxfordshire. Westmill Wind Farm has just celebrated its 10 year anniversary of wind generation, with Westmill Solar, the first community owned solar farm in the UK, arriving 5 years later. But it hasn’t been an easy journey to realise this renewable electricity generation ambition.
Adam, the owner of Collymore Farm, first considered wind power in the 1990s. The easiest route to erecting wind turbines on his farm land would have been to rent out his fields and allow someone else to build them, but Adam wanted to work with the local community, he wanted the project to be managed ethically and the profits to be returned to the community. After 15 long years of fighting for planning permission after some opposition, the first turbine was finally up and generating power. Ten years on and there are now five wind turbines and several acres of solar panels on the farm.
Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust
Unlike some other renewable energy projects, community projects like this one know exactly where their profits go and a large proportion of their profits going back in to the local community. In 2009 Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust (WeSET) was established with the aim of promoting energy efficiency, education around sustainable energy and the deployment of sustainable energy, as well as providing grants to others who can help with these aims.
For example, one such grant provided railings around a hydro electric plant in Oxfordshire to enable the site to be used as an educational resource and moregrants have been awarded to help other energy projects get off the ground elsewhere in the UK.
In fact educating people on community energy is crucial to WeSET’s endeavours, so much so that they have encouraged engagement from local schools by asking children to help name the turbines, leading to creative names such as Zeus (Greek god of the sky) and Gusty Gizmo. They have also planted a time capsule at the site and, to date, have had over 10,000 visitors.
The Westmill projects work with their local community and aim to educate people about renewable energy. This activity has helped to challenge opinions about the wind and solar farms. The following story is just one example of how this is happening.
During a frequent stroll around the wind farm, one Westmill member happened upon someone taking an interest in the turbines. He recognised the man as a fervent opposer of the project.
The member ambled over to the gentleman and asked him what had prompted his interest. A little sheepishly, he explained that his young granddaughter had recently been on a school trip to the Westmill site, made possible by the Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust (WeSET). She had returned so enthused by the project, all it had achieved and the benefits not just to the community, but to the future of the environment that she had changed his opinion of the wind farm. He was now in favour of it.
Co-op Energy & Community Energy
Co-op Energy have been tracking opinions towards community energy over the last few years and attitudes are starting to change in favour of more support for community energy. Fantastic projects like Westmill are helping to change people’s minds regarding renewable energy all over the country.
Our primary aim has been to help with the expansion of community energy generation projections by providing a secure market for community energy. We support projects ranging from co-operatives through to charitable trusts and crowd-sourced debt offering as well as technologies including wind, solar and hydro electric.
Westmill Wind Farm and Westmill Solar Farm are just two of the fity-six community energy projects that Co-op Energy supports across the UK.