Is community wind energy a worthwhile investment for landowners?
By Accounting for Energy – (2 min read)
Earlier in the year, a community in south Cumbria pooled their finances together and bought a wind farm. It’s thought to be the first wind farm to transfer from a commercial developer to community ownership. The site sits next to the first community owned wind farm and joins the growing list of community based renewable projects. Will the recent subsidies cut stem the tide or are there opportunities here that landowners can tap into?
In February it was announced that Mean Moor, which is home to three turbines, had new owners – the local community. The wind farm sits next to the Baywind Energy Co-operative, which was created in 1996 and was the first wind farm to belong to the local community, it has also been a model for the numerous community owned wind farms that have been built since, such as Four Winds in Chesterfield and Boyndie Wind Farm in Aberdeenshire.
The transfer of Mean Moor, which is on the outskirts of the Lake District, was made possible by the support of ethical renewables investment company Thrive Renewables, who co-invested with three Cumbrian energy cooperatives.
The case for community ownership is compelling. Some benefits include: electricity produced feeds into the local grid; economic advantages such as jobs creation; the delivery of conservation and environmental projects; provision of environment education; profits go direct to the local stakeholders rather than corporate and overseas investors; and money is invested in charitable causes. It could also be a way to reduce scepticism and nimbyism around renewables. For example, in Denmark more than 80 percent of the 6000 plus wind turbines are locally owned – perhaps if people in this country were encouraged to have some buy-in to the projects, rather than having wind farms imposed upon them, attitude towards renewables would be different.
There are over 40 renewable projects in the UK that are owned by community co-operatives. Assel Valley is currently in progress and will soon be added to that number, but the recent cut in government subsidies means there is now less opportunity for local co-operatives to create wind farms. However with the devolved administrations seeking to employ more favourable policies towards renewables, there are likely to be new opportunities in Wales and Scotland.
There are certainly opportunities for landowners, besides receiving land rent payments, there is also the potential of receiving shares in the project. Plus this could be a great way to counter the nimby culture if locals are choosing to build wind farms in their own back yard. And for the landowner who is passionate about local community or ethical investments, and wants to see renewables benefit local people, then this may well be worth exploring.
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Related blog post How landowners can diversify in the absence of subsidy support