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Community wind project  

It is a wind farm with a difference that aims to generate cash for its local community as well as green energy for the nation.

The venture is being planned on the outskirts of North Walsham by local environmental campaigners.

It would see three towering turbines, similar to those at Swaffham, potentially pumping thousands of pounds into the local area in a community-run scheme.

But first a 70m mast will have to be put up nearby for a year-long check on whether there is enough wind at the site in a field off the Cromer Road.

Community wind farms have been running in Britain for almost a decade. The first one was set up in Cumbria in 1997 but there has only been a handful since, mainly in Scotland and Wales.

As well as providing energy for the power network, the turbines would also generate income for the community through a local pot of money and dividends to local shareholders, explained Alicia Hull from the Norfolk Environment Forum’s energy group which is behind the scheme.

A similar-sized commercial wind farm would produce about £6,000 income a year from selling its power to the grid, but it was hoped there would be a bigger slice through a non profit-making, community-run scheme.

It was hoped to use the community for a range of projects, possibly distributed through the local area partnership, but also including keeping some to boost other environmental projects, which could include promoting smaller community turbines and improved domestic insulation.

“At the moment we have to rely on grants which are difficult to get and take a long time to come through. If we had our own income it would be great,” said Ms Hull.

Most of Norfolk’s wind energy plans lie offshore, with schemes earmarked for the waters off Sheringham and in the Greater Wash area. With the exception of a few sites such as Swaffham, West Somerton and North Pickenham, other land-based schemes have failed to get off the ground, sometimes because of opposition to projects in the county’s scenic countryside.

The site earmarked for the wind farm is between the Focus DIY store and Antingham Hill, bounded by the railway line and A140 road.

Planning permission has now been lodged for the 70m test mast on land at nearby Wall Engineering, which would monitor the wind strength.

“We know it is windy there. But the banks must have solid information before they lend us money for the scheme,” said Ms Hull.


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