It’s worth a look at other renewable energy sources we could have used for the task in order to explain why we have chosen wind power in our community.
Obviously tidal energy was a non-starter! Similarly although there are some streams on which very small scale hydropower may be possible, the amount of power available would be much smaller. There are 3 community hydropower groups in South Shropshire, using rivers like the Teme and Severn. At Neen Sollars on the River Rea, a community group is installing a hydro turbine which will generate around 5kW on average. While we support this strongly, that’s about 1% of what our wind turbines will produce on average! Another option is solar photovoltaics – and plenty of community groups are working on these projects. However, even though they are clearly worthwhile, these projects also produce relatively small amounts of power. For example Leominster’s Community Solar project will nearly cover a very large leisure centre roof with panels, yet will produce around the same as the hydro project – around 5kW on average.
Projects in Herefordshire are working on biomass and biogas projects, based on local wood fuel and food waste respectively. While some work in these areas has happened in Minsterley and Bishop’s Castle, it has proved impossible to get anything off the ground – we don’t have enough available woodland or food waste in the area for current approached to make sense.
What we do have is wind. In our initial feasibility study conducted by Natural Power, our area has a predicted annual mean wind speed in the order of around 6.6m/s. This is quite good –for comparison, Westmill Wind Farm in Oxfordshire (the first community-owned wind farm in the South East) has an average wind speed of around 6.5 m/s. This meant that wind power was clearly a front runner if we could find a site which matched the various other criteria – somewhere without a significant landscape impact, with access for the turbine itself, a good enough grid line to accept the power we make, where we could safeguard local wildlife and avoid disrupting aviation and telecommunications and, crucially, far enough from homes to make sure nobody would suffer from noise issues.