Bristol-based Thrive Renewables invests £4 million enabling local community group to build country’s tallest wind turbine
Bristol-based renewable energy investment company, Thrive Renewables PLC, has provided a £4 million loan to Ambition Community Energy to help them build the biggest wind turbine in England right here in Bristol.
With the funding now in place, Ambition Community Energy can move forwards with construction, with groundwork expected to start in June and commissioning expected in Spring 2023.
The turbine has a diameter of 115 meters and a tip height of 150 meters and will be built on land rented from Bristol City Council off the Severn Road near Lawrence Weston. With a maximum capacity of 4.2 MW, it will be capable of generating enough clean electricity to power close to 3,000 homes – the equivalent of Lawrence Weston’s domestic use – and will save almost 87600 tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime.
Providing a new revenue stream for the local community in Lawrence Weston, all profits from electricity sales will be reinvested back into the area, acting as a driver for regeneration. The group also plan to build an Energy Learning Zone to inspire young people and provide training to upskill residents for zero carbon careers.
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.
After declaring a climate emergency in 2018, Bristol is aiming to become carbon neutral and climate resilient by 2030, with the 100% community-owned turbine helping the city to meet its net zero targets.
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.”
Ambition Community Energy is a community interest company set up by Bristol-based charity Ambition Lawrence Weston – 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.
Mark Pepper, Development Manager at Ambition Lawrence Weston, said: “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. 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.”
David Tudgey, Project Development Manager at Ambition Community Energy CIC, added: “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. 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 and hope that the turbine acts as a shining example for other communities across the UK.”
The announcement comes after the government published its energy security strategy last week, which outlined its plans for ending the UK’s reliance on imported gas. There was very little support shown for onshore wind in the strategy, but this project is proof that communities are in favour of building new onshore wind farms if they can benefit from local ownership. Deploying onshore wind is the cheapest, cleanest and one of the fastest ways to reduce reliance on foreign fossil fuels.
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.”
Ambition Community Energy initially received funding from the Urban Community Energy Fund in 2016 (BEIS funding which was supported & administered by Bristol-based organisation Centre for Sustainable Energy). Bristol City Council’s Energy Services Team agreed to help them identify suitable council land and the planning application received support from residents, local communities and local councillors, as well as funding from the Bristol Community Energy Fund, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital and the West of England Combined Authority and a number of private individuals.
Notes to Editors
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About Thrive Renewables
Thrive Renewables is a renewable energy investment company. Thanks to its community of over 5,250 investors – large and small – Thrive has been building and operating renewable energy projects in the UK for 26 years.
The company’s portfolio currently comprises 22 operational renewable projects, plus further renewable energy and storage projects in development. With assets under management of £94 million, its portfolio of wind and hydro projects generated nearly 150,000MWh of electricity in 2020.
Vision: We believe in a clean, smart energy system powered by the investment of many.
Mission: To power the transition to a sustainable energy future by helping people meaningfully connect with clean energy projects.