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In Practice: Tame the elements to generate millions

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An innovative approach to public sector wind farm development can bring many real benefits.

More from: LGC View: Energy

Rochdale BC has identified the full potential for energy across its land-take and is planning to become a long-term community wind farm investor, owner and operator. Our vision is for the council to become totally self-sufficient from renewable energy.

We are now taking a leading role in renewable wind energy development.

The benefits that can be expected include:

● Using wind energy to generate new, multi-millionpound income streams.

● Funding services.

● Putting local authority land assets to work.

● Underwriting local energy security (keeping local lights on during power cuts).

● Offsetting soaring energy prices for local people.

● Helping Rochdale to contribute to meeting binding UK renewable power goals.

● Helping the UK to meet binding greenhouse gas reduction limits.

Wind farms have in some areas been divisive but two recent surveys found that 67% and 68% of local people actually support the development of more wind farms in their area and are well aware of urgent energy and climate change issues.

The financial benefits are clear: a medium-sized 0.5MW turbine can produce a return of up to £9m over a 25-year life and a set of four 2.5MW turbines will create the equivalent of a 3.5% council tax cut for 25 years.

Until now, private sector developers have taken prime wind generating sites on local authority land.

Rochdale has taken a different approach. It is working in a public-private sector partnership. But this is not the usual form of public-private sector partnership.

Instead of concentrating on one prime piece of land, wind-expert ASC Renewables has carried out a comprehensive wind feasibility audit across the borough to identify all opportunities at nominal cost.

Rochdale is now creating a four-phase wind farm investment programme with a difference.

There are a number of opportunities for wind energy projects we can own and operate on behalf of our community. Our objective is for individual citizens to become personal shareholders in renewable energy.

We face some serious challenges, including global warming and resource depletion. These require us to develop some imaginative solutions. In tough economic times, local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that private and public sector joint enterprises, such as ours with ASC Renewables, offer value for money.

So Rochdale is moving to develop its own wind farm potential before private investors move in to take the remaining opportunities.

Colin Lambert is leader of Rochdale BC

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