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Generate your own electricity?
10:10am Thursday 1st September 2011 in News
In between the soaking showers at the Royal Norfolk Show this year, I managed to catch up with John Moore, managing director of Windcrop. I didn’t need my catalogue, simply to look up and follow the wind turbine erected on their stand.
John is someone who shines with enthusiasm for his cause. He grew up on a smallholding and quickly admitted to having some ex batt hens himself. He has always been an advocate of renewable energy. “People have to understand the difference between weather and climate,” he says. “Weather is cold winters whilst climate and more importantly climate change, is measuring average temperatures in a scientific setting. It’s clear we need to generate our own energy where we can in a carbon friendly way.”
So what do Windcrop offer?
Free energy, free installation and they will also take care of the planning permission.
I wondered if planning was a problem for these modestly sized 5kW turbines which are 50 foot high with slender blades just over eight foot long. John said that they are no larger than an average sized mature tree and tend not to attract the sort of controversy that follow full blown wind farms. But even so each turbine needs planning consent and this can vary from town to town, county to county as planners begin to understand the sort of planning requirements needed.
One of Windcrop's requirements is that the turbine must be 60/70 metres away from neighbouring properties.
So how does free energy work? John sais that the smallholder will rent a triangle of land to Windcrop and in return will receive free energy for their house. They will not be responsible for costs of trying to obtain planning, the cost of the turbine or its erection or the maintenance. But if you did want to buy your own, the cost would be around £25,000 with five years warranty and cover. The Feed in Tarriff is vital to the free electricity in Windcrop's proposal. Since April 2010 the Government have been adding a levy to all electricity bills to pay for a subsidy for renewably generated electricity. So Windcrop take the feed in tariff and the smallholder takes the free energy which means there are no costs to be met by the smallholder as these are born by Windcrop. The company is based at Honigham Thorpe, near Norwich and are happy to show would-be energy generators a system at either their site or one of their reference sites.
John is keen to stress that the generators are not noisy saying “even llamas don't mind them”. They have done a trial next to laying units to see if there is any impact on production. They have found that when they put a system in a field with livestock it is completely ignored - although like trees they will need to be fenced sufficiently to avoid rubbing.
Wildlife is a worry for some smallholders and John says there is no evidence of small wind generators causing issues for wildlife but if you have concerns such as you have a particular species of wild life such as a bat colony, then Windcrop will also carry out an ecological survey prior to installation. The first thing that Windcrop need to check is the windspeed. The preliminary check is carried out using the Wind Yield Estimator Tool run by the Carbon Trust to ensure that the wind speed is a minimum of 4.7metres/second. In addition wind obstacles such as trees or tall buildings will effect where the generator is located. Having ensured this important factor, next planning approval is sought which can take between three to six months and has an eighty percent success rate. The system can then be installed in a short time and be up and running to provide the free renewable energy. If Windcrop are funding the generator then they will continue to pay all maintenance costs. John is keen to discuss any reservations that smallholders might feel directly with them.
What if the wind doesn't blow? Is a common concern and John acknowledges that this is just a little out of their control. But for most people the level of electricity generated free of charge will substantially reduce those ever increasing electricity bills as well as helping the planet. In fact the PR gains from installing a renewable system can be very good for farm shops or open smallholdings. So it seems that Windcrop will open up the world of renewables to an increasing number of smallholders who although sympathetic to the idea, could not previously have considered it
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