Last month the UK’s largest community-owned wind farm celebrated one year of power generation. Westmill Wind Farm was commissioned in March last year, its five turbines providing power for 2,500 homes. It is situated on an old airfield in Oxfordshire, and is entirely owned by the local people.
The wind farm was financed by a co-operative of 2,400 local people, who raised funds and bought shares to pay for the £4.5 million project. It is based on a similar community ownership model pioneered in Cumbria.
These projects are still quite small scale, but are great to see. Given the usual battles against wind farms, it is refreshing to hear of people who invite them and pay for them themselves. Power generation in local hands is a great way of making energy use more immediate too, something that people are aware of and thinking about and less likely to take for granted. There is an obvious pride in the wind farm, there are open days and celebrations, and a percentage of the profits are dedicated to education and art projects on energy and sustainability. Best of all, the profits from the wind farm will stay within the area and stimulate the local economy, rather than vanishing into the coffers of a multinational corporation.
I expect (and hope) we’ll see a lot more of these kinds of initiatives. After all, if the government and the power companies don’t want to invest in renewable energy, we might just have to get on with it ourselves.