Power for the people – Ambition Community Energy to build England’s largest wind turbine

  • Posted: 16 Apr 2022

We’re providing £4 million in funding for a new 150-metre community owned wind turbine near Lawrence Weston, Bristol.

We are absolutely delighted to announce that we will be working with Ambition Community Energy CIC to get the biggest wind turbine in the country built right here in Bristol. It is 100% community owned.

Thrive has provided a £4 million loan to get this brilliant initiative into construction, with groundwork likely to start in June and the commissioning of the turbine expected in Spring 2023.

With a maximum capacity of 4.2 MW, the 115-metre diameter, 150-metre tip height turbine will be capable of generating enough power for close to 3,000 homes – the equivalent to Lawrence Weston’s domestic use – and will save almost 120,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime [1].

Providing a new revenue stream for the local community in Lawrence Weston, all profits from electricity sales will be reinvested back into the area, acting as a driver for regeneration. The group also plan to build an Energy Learning Zone to inspire young people and provide training to upskill residents for zero carbon careers.

“It’s extremely impressive to see the determination and resilience Ambition Community Energy has shown in getting the project to this stage. Thrive’s unique collaborative funding model will enable them to get the turbine built and operational after years of planning work. Locally owned projects such as these will play a fundamental role in the future energy system, providing clean electricity that will help to reduce bills and generate revenue that can be plugged back into the community. It’s also great to see such significant grassroots support for onshore wind and local people taking control of energy resources.” – Matthew Clayton, Managing Director, Thrive Renewables

Set up as a community interest company, Ambition Community Energy was born out of Ambition Lawrence Weston – a Bristol-based charity established in 2012 by a group of residents who wanted to make the area a better place to live, after a decline in local services. The idea for a community-owned wind turbine was first raised in 2016 by a local resident and member of Ambition Lawrence Weston’s Energy Group and led by project team David Tudgey and Dr Charles Gamble.

“The money generated from the wind turbine will go a long way to address the historic fuel and general poverty that Lawrence Weston continues to suffer. It will help fund and run our planned new community building. This centre will deliver the community and climate development action plans, written by the residents, and a renewable energy and construction skills academy. These actions will ensure we are well placed to benefit from any ‘just energy transition’ that may happen.” – Mark Pepper, Development Manager at Ambition Lawrence Weston, and Chair of Ambition Community Energy CIC

“There are homes in Lawrence Weston which suffer from poor insulation and low-energy efficiency and, with energy costs continuing to soar, this means even more of our residents will face fuel poverty. It’s important for us that everyone is included in the clean energy transition, which is why we’ve never given up on getting this project built. Thanks to Thrive, we’re now pushing forward with construction and hope that the turbine acts as a shining example for other communities across the UK.” – David Tudgey, Project Development Manager, Ambition Community Energy CIC

“I have spent over 40 years working in wind energy all over the world. Although this is England’s biggest onshore turbine, it’s my smallest ever project. That does not mean it’s been the simplest though – far from it! Community energy schemes are difficult and receive no government encouragement. We hope to be able to use our experience to make them easier, so that other communities can make a contribution to the UK’s zero-carbon goal. In 2021, 39% of the UK’s electricity was produced by renewables. It's time to let community projects boost that figure.” – Andrew Garrad, Visiting Professor in Renewable Energy at the University of Bristol, and Director of Ambition Community Energy CIC

Ambition Community Energy initially received funding from the Urban Community Energy Fund in 2016 (BEIS funding which was supported & administered by Bristol-based organisation Centre for Sustainable Energy). Bristol City Council’s Energy Services Team agreed to help them identify suitable council land and the planning application received support from residents, local communities and local councillors, as well as funding from the Bristol Community Energy Fund, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital and the West of England Combined Authority (European Regional Development Funding) and a number of private individuals.

Planning officers recommended a rejection of the scheme, but Bristol City Council’s planning committee voted unanimously in its favour. Despite this, the project still had to be submitted to the Secretary of State for final approval.

[1] https://www.renewableuk.com/page/UKWEDExplained

Thrive's Monika Paplacyzk, Matthew Clayton and Otis Harrison with Ambition Community Energy