Bristol City Council will soon become one of the first authorities in the UK to develop and own wind turbines. Two turbines in an industrial area will create between 9.6 and 12.6 gigawatthours (GWh) annually.
Bristol City Council is at the procurement stage for installing two wind turbines at Avonmouth with a combined capacity of 6MW. The turbines are expected to be operational by 2012.
The estimated set-up cost is £9.4 million. However, that is described as a generous estimate to cover all contingencies. The funding has come from prudential borrowing. It is estimated that the turbines will make £1 million each year from Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), Levy Exemption Certificates and selling the electricity. This means it will recoup costs quicker than the normal 25-year borrowing period.
Levy Exemption Certificates (LECs) are evidence of electricity supply generated from qualifying renewable sources that is exempt from the Climate Change Levy. The LECs can be redeemed to suppliers, and then in turn to Ofgem, to demonstrate the amount of electricity supplied to non-domestic customers that is exempt from the Levy.
All the work leading up to the build has been funded by the council's own self-funded energy management unit. The unit procures energy for the council properties. The unit then recharges their clients internally with a percentage to manage the procurement, bills and any supply issues. The client still gets a better deal on their energy costs as a result. The profits are then used to fund sustainable energy projects.
The council wants to meet national and local carbon reduction targets. It will also reduce its reliance on uncertain energy markets.
Councillor Neil Harrison, Assistant Executive Member for Sustainability at Bristol City Council, added:
"The recent Government decision to permit local authorities to sell renewable electricity is a massive opportunity, both financial and environmental. It gives them the chance to build a strong and secure local production capacity that will help to protect the local authority and their taxpayers from future energy crises, as well as making a useful contribution to renewables on a national scale.
"However, it also makes good financial sense too, creating a lucrative new income stream that can be used to finance other energy or environment projects, support core services or keep council tax low."
When councils apply to their own planning committee for permission they cannot appeal the decision. Bristol had to be extremely detailed in their research and preparation because they could not tweak their proposal later if rejected. It took three years to get from the original impact assessment to submitting the planning application.
The biggest objection to the project was from Natural England. The council worked very closely with this statutory body to make sure all of their monitoring requirements were met. Bristol employed specialists to study the potential effects of the turbines on bird populations.
The community is extremely supportive of the wind energy plans. In an online survey, 253 out of 255 respondents were in favour of the development. This was in part because a nearby private scheme had already been installed. Initially, there was opposition to the nearby turbines of Bristol Port Authority. But once they were installed, local people felt that their initial concerns about visual amenity were unfounded and in fact residents were proud to have green technology in their area. This meant that local people have faith that Bristol Council's scheme will also be something to be proud of.
Community support was also bolstered by a dedicated council communications team. The council is working with Filton Airport to mitigate any effects their wind turbines will have on Filton's radar. The solution needs to be acceptable not only to the airport but also to the regulatory body, the Civil Aviation Authority. Once this has been developed, the council will be in a position to award a contract to construct the wind turbines.
Cover every angle when submitting the planning application. Councils applying to their own planning committee for permission must be prepared for every kind of challenge because they cannot appeal the decision.
Evaluate the impact of retiring ROCs and when it may be necessary to do so. Under the current Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme, organisations cannot claim the carbon credits for generating renewable electricity if ROCs or the feed-in tariffs are claimed. Bristol decided to own the turbines and claim ROCs as that worked out better financially. But they can retire the ROCs if the balance changes.
CRC Energy Efficiency scheme user guide - on the Department for Energy and Climate Change website
Bristol City Council will be one of only a small number of local authorities to own wind turbines, and this has made the community proud to be involved in such a ground-breaking scheme. One resident described it as ‘putting Bristol on the map' in terms of sustainable energy.
The size of turbines installed will depend on the results of a formal tender process. Working on an estimate that the turbines will be in the two to three MW range, annual energy production of the scheme will be between 9.6GWh and 12.6GWh. This annual production equates to meeting the electricity needs of between 2,000 and 2,700 ‘average' households.
Energy Management Officer
Bristol City Council
1 May 2012