Hook Norton Low Carbon is excited to explore the idea of developing renewable energy sources such as a wind turbine/solar field.  This is a very exciting opportunity to help us make our community more sustainable and tackle the climate crisis. It could also enable the residents to benefit from the income generated. 

This scheme could deliver lifetime CO2e savings of almost 100,000 tons, depending on the technology chosen.

This could be our joint contribution to make a huge difference at both a local level, but one that impacts globally in reducing the carbon footprint on our home planet.

This is our community, our opportunity, our evolution.

We asked you, our local community, to see whether you wish to engage with this opportunity.  The turbine/solar field will be owned by shareholders through a share offer and will benefit the communities of Hook Norton and the surrounding villages.  Accordingly, as part of our community and stakeholder engagement, we valued your views and your support through the survey.

We also ran a series of online and in person events to give you the opportunity to ask questions and give us suggestions, plus you heard from ‘Hockerton Housing’ who have successfully implemented community energy in their village. See results and planned ways forward below.

An Exemplar Community

The short film below features Simon Tilley, a resident Director of Hockerton Housing Project, talking about the approach used by Sustainable Hockerton for its community-owned wind turbine.

Introduction to Community Energy Webinar 

We held 2 webinar sessions in June 2021 giving the chance for our community to learn from and ask questions to Hockerton Housing Project, who have successfully implemented a wind turbine in their area:

Results from the Survey and Consultation:

At the recent Hook Norton Low Carbon 2021 AGM, we announced the results of the community energy survey.

Please browse the supporting documents below:

The next steps and a way forward as a result of the survey and consultation are summerised below:

  1. Support for community-scale energy is clear and so this is a new priority area for HNLC for 2022 
  2. There is overwhelming support for a solar field development and the location of Council Hill would be supported by the wider community if planning consent and grid connection can be obtained.
  3. This will be the focus of the HNLC Board in 2022 to put in place a financially viable project that can be funded through a community share raise. 
  4. There is majority support for a community-scale wind project.  Concerns have focussed on the local landscape impacts of where a turbine might be sited.
  5. As a secondary and separate task to the solar field project the HNLC Board will investigate options for where a community turbine could be sited, narrowing down the 12 potential sites that were identified in 2012.
  6. Any potential site(s) would form part of a specific community consultation in the future, and after the solar project has been initiated.

FAQ – HNLC Community Energy

Where can I find out more information about community energy generally?

Community Energy England have a lot of information on community energy projects available here. The Centre for Sustainable Energy also have a good report on wind turbines here.

Are there any other wind turbine projects in Oxfordshire? Are they established and working well?

We are fortunate to have the first 100% community owned onshore wind farm to be built in the south of England just 30 miles to the south of us at Westmill. The five wind turbines site at Watchfield, Swindon, SN6 8TH was commissioned in March 2008. In the last five years over 10,000 people have visited the community owned windfarm at Westmill.

Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust are offering free virtual tours at the moment and there is one at 7pm on the 7th July – if you wish to sign up just follow this link Virtual Tours – WeSET

Plans have also been approved for a pair of 35m (115ft) high wind turbines in rural Oxfordshire. The wind turbines, on farmland in Adderbury, would be 100m (328ft) apart and generate enough power for 125 homes. They would contribute to the governments’ renewable energy targets, says Cherwell District Council.

Eynsham Village Hall and St Peters Church

This was our very first Low Carbon Hub community project, conducted during 2012. Solar panels were installed on the village hall (12.65kW) and on the adjoining presbytery of St Peter’s Church (6kW).

Low Carbon Hub worked closely with local low carbon group Transition Eynsham (Eynsham GreenTEA) to deliver the project. The project aimed to provide clean, green electricity and a revenue stream to fund other carbon-reducing initiatives in the area. 

Southill Solar Community Project is highly regarded as an example of good practice in West Oxfordshire. They demonstrate the power of community action in creating a strategic-level, renewable energy project that provides a source of local, clean energy.  

We agreed at Full Council on 22 January 2020 to a loan to Southill Solar Community Project which will contribute to, and support, its long-term sustainability. 

Does my local authority support Community energy?

West Oxfordshire District Council: 

Yes, they do! They have invested in clean energy and installed renewable technologies within the design of their buildings.

Solar panels have been installed and are operational at Carterton Leisure Centre since April 2016 and they provide a direct, renewable supply of electricity. This was made possible through their investment of £155,000. At their Elmfield offices, roof-mounted solar panels provide power to the offices and make a positive, zero-emission, contribution to their electricity supply.

They are learning from these successes and consider in the forthcoming Carbon Action Plan the future potential of Solar PV. Alongside other low and zero-carbon energy technologies it will be a key part of achieving their target of carbon neutrality in operation.  

Solar Panels in Schools in Oxfordshire

A number of urban sites such as schools have opted for solar PV to provide their energy needs. One of HNLC’s first community projects was to install 15kWp of PV panels at HN school.  Because we were very early in the feed-in-tariff government incentive scheme we now receive a high price per kWh of energy we generate so generating income to community as well as saving carbon. 

West Witney Primary School 

The 31st solar school, with 108 solar PV panels owned and managed by Low Carbon Hub. Installed at no cost to the school, the scheme is one of the projects supported by the Low Carbon Hub’s 2019 Community Energy Fund share offer. The panels have an installed capacity of 30kWp and a predicted annual generation of 28,820kWh of clean electricity every year, helping to power the school and reduce its reliance on the carbon intensive national grid.

This generation means that West Witney will be meeting approximately 18% of their energy needs through the panels as well as saving 11 tonnes of CO₂ emissions each year. The project is projected to save the school around £15,000 over the lifetime of the project by reducing their energy bills.

West Witney is a part of the Eco-Schools programme and they also have an Eco-club full of very enthusiastic volunteers from across the school. They aim to meet twice every term and work together to plan activities to raise awareness and tackle issues such as litter, recycling, saving energy and looking after the school environment. They have already given all classrooms thermometers to measure the temperature, put timers on the laptop and iPad trolleys to ensure they are only charged overnight and produced a checklist for monitoring classrooms’ use of energy.

We now have over 30 schools across the county who are benefitting from cheaper energy bills as they receive discounted green electricity produced by their solar arrays. These schools are leading the way in helping to cut our county’s carbon emissions and demonstrate their commitment to the environment. They are also supporting the education of pupils by demonstrating, visually, the role of renewables in a low carbon future energy system.

If we had a Photovoltaic Array (Solar field) for the local villages how close would it be? Where would it go?

The development first depends on the response from consulting local residents through a survey. Only if there is a positive response for a community energy system to go ahead will potential locations be considered further and the community will be consulted again if any specific plans were to be developed. The landowner at Council Hill (to the East of Hook Norton, just north of the HN to Wigginton main road) is supportive of the idea of a solar farm and so that would be one of the first sites we would consider if the community is supportive.

If we had a wind turbine for the local villages how close would it be?  Where would it/they go?

The development first depends on the response from consulting local residents through a survey. Previous wind studies by HNLC showed that the hills around Hook Norton have a good wind resource (Wind Power – Hook Norton Low Carbon). Only if there is a positive response for a community energy system to go ahead will potential locations be considered further and the community will be consulted again if any specific plans were to be developed. 

How would our community benefit from having its own wind turbine / solar field?  

The largest benefit would be in helping to tackle the climate emergency by providing more renewable energy to the National Grid.  The indirect benefit would be that it will generate an income for the village and the surrounding villages in this consultation to use for the benefit of the community. The model would be that surplus money generated after paying running costs would be ploughed back into the local area. By owning and running a renewable energy generator the local community can benefit tremendously. This is an opportunity to take before another organisation takes the opportunity. This is the approach that has been applied successfully in Hockerton since 2009 with Sustainable Hockerton, and also on a smaller scale at Hockerton Housing Project since 2002.

How would we pay for the solar field / wind turbine and where would the money go that is generated?  

The money would be generated through a community share offer to pay for the capital. Loans may also be used. The income generated would be used to maintain the wind turbine / solar field pay investors back money and also to benefit the residents of the community through distribution of surplus if made.

How big would the wind turbine / solar field be?  

This would be the subject of a further consultation and be decided by the community in conjunction with the directors of Hook Norton Low Carbon.

How will the money be made?

Money will be made by selling generated electricity to an energy company using a power purchase agreement. This would be done via the national grid wires. It might also be possible to supply electricity directly to local consumers cutting out the grid charges. This would make more money for the solar field / wind turbine and supply cheaper electricity to the local consumers; although more expensive to set up initially, this would provide a win-win situation in the longer term.

Who decides where the profit is spent?  

This will be decided by the society members and the directors and will be guided by the principle that the surplus should be for the benefit of the community.  Since HNLC is a “Community Benefit Society” there is an “asset lock” which ensures that any surpluses that are made by the organisation are reinvested in the community.

Once the wind turbine / solar panels wear out what happens?  

Wind turbines have a lifespan of approximately 25 years. They can then be replaced or removed without trace if required or potentially replaced with another zero-carbon solution. Photovoltaic panels can also be removed at the end of life. Their lifespan is also approximately 25 years.

If I am a member of HNLC, can I get involved in decision making?  

Yes! There is a subcommittee looking at renewable energy at the moment and we welcome any support that can be given with this. Any future specific plans on a project for a solar field or wind turbine will be brought back to HNLC members and the wider community to seek their views.

I have heard that wind turbines are inefficient and only work 30% of the time

A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time, but it generates different outputs at different times depending on the wind speed. Over the course of a year, it will typically generate about 30% to 40% of a theoretic figure based on the generator running at maximum output or its name plate rating 24/7. The percentage is known as its load factor. Load factor vary tremendously depending on the technology used to generate energy and is specific to that technology, so great care needs to be given to comparing load factors across technologies. Most forms of renewable energy are intermittent which represents a challenge to the way we want to use energy. This can be addressed with different forms of energy generation supporting each other over time or with storage. As renewable become more common place new “grid level” energy storage solutions will become available that allows renewable energy to be stored and used when needed.

I have heard that solar panels do not work in cold snowy weather or when it is cloudy

Solar panels work in sunny, cold, and even cloudy environments. The technologies of solar panels allow them to work effectively and efficiently and are even more effective in cooler temperatures than warmer ones. Cloudy weather does not mean they stop working, they work at a lower power rating in these conditions but the bulk of the energy they produce is generated in this sort of weather. Cold, winter days still do generate energy but because of the shorter day length less in generated than in summer.

Do wind turbines kill 1000s of birds? 

The RSPB stated in its 2004 information leaflet Wind farms and birds, that “in the UK, we have not so far witnessed any major adverse effects on birds associated with wind farms”. Moreover, a report published in the journal Nature confirmed that the greatest threat to bird populations in the UK is climate change. Occasionally birds are killed, but this needs to be compared to the alternative ways of generating energy which in the case of fossil fuels is far worse.

Are solar panels bad for the environment after their lifetime is used up?

Solar panels are built to reach a maximum lifetime use of 25 years, after which they can be recycled

Does wind turbine noise damage your health?

In response to concerns raised that wind turbines emit infrasound and cause associated health problems, Dr Geoff Leventhall, Consultant in Noise Vibration and Acoustics and author of the Defra Report on Low Frequency Noise and its Effects, says: “I can state quite categorically that there is no significant infrasound from current designs of wind turbines. To say that there is an infrasound problem is one of the hares which objectors to wind farms like to run. There will not be any effects from infrasound from the wind turbines. More Info…

More recent research suggests that the way in which people respond to wind farms is somewhat determined by their pre-disposition for or against. People fearing that a wind farm will negatively affect their health tend to be the same people who later on report such affects. This is not to say the reports are in any way made up, but suggests a possible psychosomatic link.

Are wind turbines very noisy? 

Wind turbines do make a noise when they rotate. This rotation is caused by the wind blowing. The wind also creates background noise independent of the wind turbine. This background noise can mask the turbine noise to a certain extent. The evolution of wind farm technology over the past decade has rendered mechanical noise from turbine generator motors almost undetectable with the main sound being the aerodynamic swoosh of the blades passing the tower. There are strict guidelines on wind turbines and noise emissions to ensure the protection of residential amenity. These are contained in planning guidance. One good way to assess the noise from a wind turbine is to approach it and assess its sound compared to other sounds in the environment. Wind turbines are not very noisy, but they do make a noise however this noise dissipates with distance. Positioned far enough away wind turbines become inaudible or undetectable.

Are Solar Panels efficient in the UK?

Solar panels are very efficient in the UK. Although the efficiency of solar panels is higher on sunny days, they do not need direct sunlight to work. Solar panels can also produce a considerable amount of electricity on cloudy days and during the winter season. In fact, they are more suited to cooler temperatures. Solar panels can overheat in hot countries, and that reduces their efficiency. Therefore, UK weather is ideal for solar panels to work efficiently.

Do Solar Panels use up land?

Panels at farm scale cover land and can reduce the possible uses for it. Farming arable crops becomes impractical although grazing sheep or chickens under them can still occur. 

Do Wind Turbines use up land?

Wind turbines are much less land intensive than solar panels, having a much smaller footprint for the same generating capacity. Most farming activities can be continued with wind turbines present on the land.