Ambition Lawrence Weston (ALW) and Ambition Community Energy CIC (ACE) are
thrilled to announce the successful construction and operation of England's largest
onshore wind turbine. The turbine is 100% owned by the community. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that the turbine is 100% owned by the community of Lawrence Weston. This groundbreaking project marks a turning point for community-led renewable energy initiatives and highlights the vital role residents can play in driving the transition to clean energy.
The 115m diameter, 4.2 MW wind turbine will generate enough clean energy to
power more than 3,000 homes - equivalent to Lawrence Weston's domestic energy
usage. Over its lifetime, the turbine will save an estimated 45,000 tonnes of carbon
emissions, contributing significantly to the fight against climate change. There are no shareholders in ACE and hence any surplus generated from electricity sales will be reinvested back into the community, driving local regeneration efforts.
Local resident and originator of the project Roger Sabido, dressed as the iconic civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, cut a ribbon at the ceremony to mark the achievement. Darren Jones MP for Bristol & Bristol North West was also there to witness the event, while other key stakeholders who have helped fund the project were there on the day including the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority’s Metro Mayor Dan Norris and Cllr Kye Dudd from Bristol City Council, and also members of the local community.
Roger Sabido said:
“It’s said ideas are easy. Good ideas a lot more difficult. Making good ideas work runs next to miraculous. This is a wonderfully good idea made to work by the fierce dedicated application of skill and experience, not mine, and the vigorous support of a community desperate to live sustainably. It is not about saving the Planet. Those that talk of saving the planet have not grasped what’s going on. The planet is in the throes of saving itself. It’s done it before. We know the poorest and most vulnerable of us are being hit soonest and hardest by our climate emergency, and this is about saving ourselves, about showing that we can live and live sustainably. Our challenge now is to ensure the benefits go where they are most needed.”
Darren Jones MP, Bristol North West, said:
“With energy prices still sky-high, the opening of this community-led wind turbine couldn’t come at a better time. In the longer-term, investing in renewables is the way forward to reach Net Zero.
“Public perception of onshore wind turbines is shifting in a positive direction. From
individual community-led turbines to larger wind farms, I hope the winds of change
are blowing across the UK for a greener future.”
ALW, a grassroots, resident-led Development Trust, Registered Charity, and Company, began its journey with the vision to deliver a Community Plan that reflects the aspirations of local residents. Initially, renewable energy and climate change were not part of the plan. However, inspired by successful energy projects developed in collaboration with Bristol Energy Network, such as the 4.2 MW solar farm with Bristol Energy Coop, the ambitious idea of a community-owned wind turbine took shape.
In 2016, in order to identify sites and a planning route for onshore wind, ALW sought
support from David Tudgey and Dr. Charles Gamble of Community Power Solutions.
They helped develop an application to the Urban Community Energy Fund and have
continued to support the project development. They, with the residents and trustees
of ALW, formed ACE in spring 2018. The chair of Bristol 2015 European Green
Capital, Andrew Garrad, then joined the board.
Developing a project of this magnitude was not without its challenges. UK planning policy discourages onshore wind farms, and subsidies for community-scale renewable energy projects have been removed. Nevertheless, with crucial support from Bristol City Council, potential council land was offered for the wind turbine, along with early-stage development funding. This initial backing paved the way for further investment from grant funders and lenders. The planning application received overwhelming support from local residents, community groups, and councillors, leading to the granting of planning permission in July 2020.
Development funds were secured through loans from Bristol and Bath Regional
Capital (BBRC) City Funds, members of the Society of Merchant Venturers, and a
£500,000 European Development Fund Grant from the West of England Mayoral
Combined Authority ACE began construction of the turbine with the support of a £4
million loan from Bristol-based Thrive Renewables, who joined the project when
planning permission and grid connection had been secured.
Matthew Clayton, Managing Director at Thrive Renewables said:
“Thrive Renewables is incredibly proud to provide over £4 million of funding for the construction of the Ambition Community Energy wind turbine. The dual challenges of the energy and climate crisis can only be addressed by working together and the ACE wind project takes collaboration to a new level. We look forward to see it generating clean, renewable electricity for the next generation, and the revenues it generates going back to fund regeneration and education for the local community.”
ACE announced a 2-year contract with Bristol-based OVO Energy, specifically
supporting a power purchase agreement which is subsidy-free renewable energy.
This partnership, supporting community energy, helps promote and incentivise small-
scale, independent wind and solar farms by offering them an above-market price for
the electricity they generate.
The successful completion and operation of the wind turbine project marks a
significant turning point for onshore wind deployment in England, which has seen a
decline in recent years. With only two onshore wind farms completed in England
2022, Ambition Lawrence Weston's wind turbine sets a precedent for community-led
applications across the country. This accomplishment showcases the power of
grassroots-driven initiatives and underscores the pivotal role that communities can
play in driving the transition to renewable energy and a Just Energy Transition.
The project's success aligns with the West of England’s commitment to becoming
carbon neutral by 2030, providing a blueprint for other community energy groups in
the UK to create green jobs amidst a challenging economic landscape.