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Windcrofting the Way to Go
With the introduction of Feed-in Tariffs, it makes sense that all landowners assess the opportunities to benefit from this long awaited incentive to generate renewable energy. The WindcroftingTM approach created great interest at The Royal Highland Show in June, in the very well supported Renewable Energy Section.
Oliver Hughes, Managing Director of Vigor Renewables, explains the concept of Windcrofting and how it can benefit farmers and landowners.
There are a myriad of options open to landowners to generate renewable energy – be they wind, solar, hydro or biomass and each landowner is likely going through their own assessment of what suits their location best, what their long term ambitions are and how much capital and time resource they want to allocate.
For a farm or land site in an open windy location, wind energy is the natural first option to assess. Once the decision is made to go with wind, do you go big or small, are you looking for a higher risk and return or lower stable returns and how much time do you personally want to take assessing and developing a site – if any?
Big wind sites (i.e. greater than 100kW's) have been developed for some time all over the UK and there is little doubt that there are significant financial opportunities in the big wind sector. However, big wind by its nature is large, expensive, time consuming and potentially damaging locally and environmentally. From beginning to end, a big wind development can take years of planning, environmental assessment and connectivity – with an outcome that is often uncertain.
Windcrofting is an alternative. Windcrofting is a term developed by Proven Energy, Europe's largest manufacturer of small wind turbines, and it describes the concept of developing a small scale wind farm with multiple small turbines on a site.
While each site will always be slightly different, the concept is to develop a site of around 100 kW's, which can then generate renewable energy to either be used on site or directly linked into the national grid. Utilising Proven Energy turbines, a typical site would consist of 6 15kW machines and only cover an area of four to five acres.
The benefits of Windcrofting are clear. Sites are purposely designed to be of low environmental and social impact, which benefits the land owner, as more often than not they live on or near the site. The land can still be used for farming and save for the necessity to access the turbines, there is very little impact to the croft area. Thirdly they can be developed quicker with less time required for planning, environmental impact and gird connectivity issues.
Naturally, landowners can manage and develop their own Windcroft but as an alternative, Vigor Renewables has teamed up with Proven Energy to partner with landowners and communities to develop sites. This unique turnkey solution enables the farmer to benefit from a stable guaranteed return, a share in any power sale to national grid, without the necessity to provide any capital or the hassle of developing and operating the Windcroft themselves.
With over 30 landowners throughout the UK already embracing this concept, it is possible that through multiple small individual Windcroft developments, a big difference can be made to the UK's renewable energy targets, while at same time benefitting individual landowners and communities.
These are exciting times for renewable energy development and we believe that Windcrofting can have a critical part to play.