It’s worth a look at other renewable energy sources we could have used for the task in order to explain why we have chosen wind power in our community.
Obviously tidal energy was a non-starter! Similarly although there are some streams on which very small scale hydropower may be possible, the amount of power available would be much smaller. There are 3 community hydropower groups in South Shropshire, using rivers like the Teme and Severn. At Neen Sollars on the River Rea, a community group is installing a 14 kW hydro turbine which will generate around 8 kW on average. While we support this strongly, that’s about 2% of what our wind turbines will produce on average! Sustainable Bridgnorth commissioned a report into hydro potential in the Bridgnorth area and found some small sites – nothing larger than the Neen Sollars one. Using the Severn is appealing but would require new weirs which the Environment Agency and others currently oppose. The proposed community hydro in Shrewsbury would produce something like 250 KW on average.
Another option is solar photovoltaics – and plenty of community groups are working on these projects. However, even though they are clearly worthwhile, these projects also produce relatively small amounts of power. For example Leominster’s Community Solar project nearly covers a large leisure centre roof with panels, yet produces around the same as the Neen Sollars hydro project – around 5 kW on average.
Projects in Herefordshire are working on biomass and biogas projects, based on local wood fuel and food waste respectively. While some work in these areas has happened in Minsterley and Bishop’s Castle, it has proven impossible to get anything off the ground in Shropshire – not for want of trying!
What we do have is wind. Now we have measured for a year we think the wind speed on the site is at least 6 m/s . That’s a significant wind resource -especially when matched with the larger-bladed turbines on the market. We estimate that the turbines will produce around 375 kW on average. This meant that wind power was clearly a front runner if we could find a site which matched the various other criteria – somewhere without a significant landscape impact, with access for the turbine itself, a good enough grid line to accept the power we make, where we could safeguard local wildlife and avoid disrupting aviation and telecommunications and, crucially, far enough from homes to make sure nobody would suffer from noise issues.