A community wind farm being built near Swindon will provide enough energy to power 2,500 homes.
Work will begin on the £5m Westhill Farm scheme on Monday, ending a 15-year struggle by organic farmer Adam Twine.
The project is a milestone for the industry and will see five 164ft turbines emerge at the 450-acre farm near Watchfield.
The turbines, the blades of which will rise 266ft at full height, will generate 12,000 megawatts of green electricity a year.
The turbines have already been redesigned twice and have drawn controversy from groups as significant as the National Trust.
But they are symbolic of Mr Twine’s determination and the popular support for the Westmill wind farm co-operative.
He said: “I have argued for a long time that we have to do a lot more to tackle climate change and this project is a significant step along the way. The advantages of wind power are numerous but the core issue has to be that we won’t be burning off emissions to generate more energy.”
The co-operative was created to pay for the multi-million cost of installing the giant turbines.
Shares in the co-operative were offered to people living within a 50-mile radius as a way of raising cash for the giant wind catchers.
There was an overwhelming demand for the £4.4m shares, and the project should be up and running by next year.
Westmill chairman Mark Luntley said: “I’m delighted to be able to announce that this scheme, after so many years of preparation, is finally going ahead. The wind farm will generate clean, carbon-free electricity over the coming 25 years.”
Mr Twine, 45, said: “It’s taken 15 years’ work to get to this point and I’m really happy that within seven months it will finally be operational.
“It’s a practical way in which individuals are working in a co-operative way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and I would like to thank the 2,394 members of Westmill Co-op.”
When Mr Twine returned from university in Reading in 1983 to work on the farm, he was already committed to ecological farming methods.
He said: “When my father died in 1984 I had the chance to take up the tenancy of the family farm, and I did. Some of my land had been an old airfield – it wasn’t great for growing things, but I could see that it would make a great wind farm.
“It was flat and slightly elevated, so I started trying to find out about wind farms, and in 1993 we put in for planning permission.”
But since then Mr Twine’s proposals came up against stiff opposition. Among them the National Trust claimed the imposing structures would ruin the setting of its nearby conservation village, Coleshill. But his experience as a parish councillor and Green party parliamentary candidate, combined with support from Friends of the Earth, has helped the project to reach take-off.
After returning to the drawing board, re-submitting their planning application and getting approval, the demand for windmills had outstripped production capacity and they were placed in a queue, Mr Twine explained.
“When things got tough we went out into the community and people just turned up out of the woodwork to put up the money,” he said.
“It means that hundreds of homes will be able to avoid getting power from nuclear or fossil fuel sources, which is of great benefit to future generations.
“The only negative feature of the turbines is the aesthetic aspect, but that is something particular to a local environment.
“A wind turbine that someone considers ugly will not produce emissions that cause an increase in climate change.”
Swindon FOTE campaign co-ordinator Jean Saunders said: “We are delighted that after all the hurdles, this scheme will finally go ahead. Harnessing the wind to provide clean energy is part of the solution to meeting our energy needs without creating pollution or waste.”
By Matt Jackson
17 August 2007
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