Starting in 2016, development of the turbine has been a long process. Early funding was obtained from the DECC Urban Community Energy Fund, Bristol City Council (BCC), and Power to Change. That initial funding was followed by contingent development loans from Bristol Community Energy Fund (via BCC / Power to Change / BBRC / City Funds) and finally from the Society of Merchant Venturers.
A determined effort was needed from the ACE team to overcome several procedural hurdles. First it had to gain planning permission. Strong arguments were advanced on both sides and even the planning officers seemed to see the decision as a finely balanced. Therefore it was a great relief when the planning committee voted unanimously in favour. Then there was the government’s removal of subsidies to onshore wind of less than 5 MW, which persists until today – the project has no subsidy of any sort. Finally, the introduction of the Written Ministerial Statement 2015, which is an effective ban on development of new onshore wind for most developers had to be addressed. The project has been developed in spite of government policy rather than because of it!
Planning permission was gained in July 2020 and the lease for the plot of land was signed in November 2021. ACE secured senior debt funding from Thrive Renewables in March 2022. It was added to other loan funds from Bristol and Bath Regional Capital (BBRC), Bristol “City Funds” and some members of the Society of Merchant Venturers, and a grant from the West of England Combined Authority (Local Energy Scheme) which is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Construction finally commenced in July 2022, and the turbine was assembled in February 2023. The commissioning process was completed in May 2023, at which point the turbine officially began generating and selling its output to OVO Energy.
At 150m tall with 4.2 MW capacity, the ACE turbine has two remarkable characteristics: it is England’s biggest onshore turbine and it is 100% community-owned. The turbine will generate electricity equivalent to Lawrence Weston’s domestic use, approximately 3,000 homes, and save 87,600 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime. The income will help fund a development plan for Lawrence Weston. It will contribute to a new £1.7 million community hub for the area, which will provide support, training and debt advice to local residents.