Image: AW Group's new onshore wind turbine near Leighton Buzzard / Credit: AWGroup
In a remarkable development, England has witnessed the activation of its second onshore wind turbine within the past 12 months. This groundbreaking achievement comes as AWGroup proudly unveils its 4.1MW Vensys Energy onshore wind turbine at the Checkley Wood site near the charming town of Leighton Buzzard, nestled in Bedfordshire.
This impressive turbine is poised to supply power to more than 2,500 homes, ushering in a new era of sustainable energy. Initially, it will be seamlessly integrated into the Leighton Buzzard electricity network, ensuring its clean energy benefits the local community, including residents, households, and thriving businesses in the town and the picturesque surrounding villages.
But that's not all! This turbine's energy will also fuel a cutting-edge ultra-rapid EV charging station and an innovative electric bus depot, both in the final stages of construction at AWGroup's Checkley Wood site, eagerly anticipated to open its doors to the public in early 2024.
Bob Williams, the visionary chief executive at AWGroup, shared his thoughts: "With energy security and decarbonisation more important than ever, our new turbine at Checkley Wood is evidence of our commitment to delivering solutions that provide the infrastructure the UK needs to generate locally sourced, secure, and affordable renewable energy."
Nevertheless, Williams made a compelling plea to the government, urging them to take more substantial measures in simplifying the planning processes for future onshore wind projects.
It's important to note that last autumn, the government introduced a pivotal change in planning guidance, effectively dismantling the 'de facto ban' that had stifled new onshore wind farm projects for nearly a decade. This ban, which was instituted in 2015, had led to a virtual standstill in the development of onshore wind projects.
In a surprising revelation, it came to light that the UK had achieved less onshore wind capacity than Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia's invasion.
The government's revamped planning guidelines promised to pave the way for a new wave of onshore wind projects, bringing about lower energy costs, decreased emissions, and heightened energy security. However, stakeholders in the renewable energy sector were quick to caution that these reforms might still fall short, potentially obstructing projects with only a handful of objections. Currently, only one onshore wind project has been proposed, and its fate concerning planning permission remains uncertain.
"For the UK to deliver its commitment to reach net zero by 2050, the government must do more to create the best possible climate for onshore wind in the UK," Williams said. "AWGroup has long recognised the importance of sustainable investment in rural communities, and we would encourage the government to further its position in support of onshore wind with a presumption in favour included within the National Planning Policy Framework to positively encourage and enable the development of this vital energy resource."
Baroness Hayman, Chair of Peers for the Planet, said: "It is very welcome news that electricity is now being generated at the AWGroup's Checkley Wood site. This is a positive step forward for onshore wind in England and I hope it will be the first of many new projects that will help unlock the great potential of this technology to lower bills, tackle climate change and improve our energy security."