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Innovative wind project "the way forward"

PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 August 2010

Villagers in Walpole have come up with an innovative scheme to fund green projects in their communiities.; l - r Zoe Mair, Mike Porter, Simon Weeks, chair, Paul Crozer, Paul Grimwood and Anne Thomas; Myphotos24 - ref wt 010 Walpole project 1

Villagers in Walpole have come up with an innovative scheme to fund green projects in their communiities.; l - r Zoe Mair, Mike Porter, Simon Weeks, chair, Paul Crozer, Paul Grimwood and Anne Thomas; Myphotos24 - ref wt 010 Walpole project 1

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AN innovative eco-friendly scheme that could see wind turbines installed in two Suffolk villages - with income from electricity sales ploughed back into the parish - was last night hailed as a blueprint for the county's green future.

The ground-breaking project was the brainchild of Cookpole Energy Action (CEA), a not for profit group made up of residents from Cookley and Walpole, near Halesworth.

They want to install two medium sized Gaia 133 wind turbines in the parish - each measuring around 18m tall with blades of around 13m in diameter.

The cost would be around £100,000 and the electricity generated would be fed into the national grid.

It is expected to generate an income or around £15,000 and that money would then be invested into other eco-friendly projects within the parish, such as solar panels for the local pavilion, a community woodland or electric bicycles for villagers to use.

The idea has been made possible because of changes in legislation which provide greater incentives for communities to invest in renewable energy technology and allow local authorities to sell electricity back to the grid.

Last night the project was hailed as a “blueprint for the future” by environment chiefs, who believe a number of communities could follow in Cookley and Walpole’s footsteps as Suffolk moves forward with its “greenest county” initiative.

Judy Terry, portfolio holder for the greenest county at the county council, said: “I hope it could be a template for other villages.

“We are very keen to support them. If they are able to generate their own electricity they will be able to use the money to reinvest in other green projects in their community - support a village shop, create some allotments or even a bus scheme.

“It’s a fantastic idea and it is great to see them so enthused.”

Adam Bell, national campaign co-ordinator for Renewable UK, continued: “Is it a blueprint for the future? I would certainly say so. There is a lot of appetite for renewable development - both small scale and large scale. We have got to reach our 2020 target of 30% of our electricity from renewable energy and contributions such as this will play a valuable role.”

CEA are in the process of putting together a planning application for the scheme, which will have to go before Suffolk Coastal District Council.

They have also completed a feasibility study and are hoping to fund the project through a series of grants.

The group has identified three sites within the parish that they believe would be most suitable for the turbines - although they cannot say at the moment where these are.

Chairman Simon Weeks said: “A lot of people were very sceptical at first - they said it might work well for the west coast of Scotland but it would be useless in East Anglia because the wind just isn’t strong enough. However, we have found a maker and model developed in Denmark designed specifically for fairly low wind speeds.

“We’re very excited about the scheme, we don’t believe there is anything like it in the country, certainly not East Anglia.

“The reaction from the community has been pretty good. I think what people object to is not being able to see any benefit in their local community. However when we explain to them what we are trying to do - that the income will be invested into local projects - then they tend to react positively.

“There are one or two who are undecided and a few die hard sceptics but we want to be as open as possible and keep people informed. There will be plenty of opportunities for people to discuss the project. In fact we are organising a bus trip shortly for villagers who want to go and see the same turbine model in action locally.”

For more information about the project visit www.energyaction.org.uk.

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