Wind farm test mast trial brings fast broadband to South Lakeland households

August 23, 2013 | Armistead News

Innovative communications technology linked to a wind farm test mast is being used to bring high-speed broadband to households in South Lakeland for the first time.

Around 20 homes in the parishes of Killington, New Hutton, Old Hutton and Lambrigg have been equipped with a new fixed wireless broadband system as part of renewable energy firm Banks Renewables’ investigations into how revenues from the proposed Killington wind farm could facilitate a much faster broadband service for the surrounding area.

And initial results already suggest that the average broadband speed currently available in the area is being increased at least ten-fold by the new equipment to provide speeds which are comparable to the broadband enjoyed in urban areas such as Carlisle and Kendal.

Improving broadband access in the area was the main priority raised by local people when Banks asked them how they might want to allocate the community benefits fund that would be generated by the wind farm.

The distance from the nearest BT exchange and the existing telecommunications infrastructure in the area means that homes in the village only get an average broadband speed of around 500 kilobits per second, which is substantially below the speeds available in other local communities.

Banks has engaged fixed wireless telecommunications specialists Speednet to instigate a trial in the area which will last until the end of August, and which will help to identify how a practical, scalable broadband solution might be put in place.

Transmitters have been installed on the permanent 60m test mast at the nearby Armistead wind farm, which is primarily being used to gather wind speed data, and around 60 relay links are also in place to transmit the broadband signal around the area.

Trevor Clarke, who runs residential activity centre the Bendrigg Trust in Old Hutton, and who is taking part in the trial, says: “We’re very lucky in being one of very few local properties to have a clear line of sight to a radio mast which provides broadband speeds of around 5MB, but we’ve been able to get more than twice this speed so far during the trial, and even up to 15MB at times.

“It’s great to know that this sort of facility is available, especially as we’re in a place that’s never going to be able to get broadband delivered by landline, and we’re looking forward to seeing how much more might be possible during the remainder of the trial.”

Brian McIraith, managing director at Speednet, adds: “The initial speeds we’ve recorded suggest that everyone will be able to get download speeds of at least 5MBs per second, which is ten times the current local average, and we would expect many of the properties to get far higher speeds even than that, as has been the experience at the Bendrigg Trust.

“The system has been designed to be able to go around the geographic features that currently restrict local broadband, with the height of the transmitting equipment providing a direct connection to the relay network we’ve put in place.

“The feedback we’ve had so far has been very good, and we’ll be visiting the properties involved in the trial over the coming weeks to carry out further assessments of the performance of the new system.”

The broadband improvement project has been put forward as an example of how the Killington community benefits fund, which will amount to around £675,000 over the 25-year lifespan of the scheme, might be used to secure a positive, long-term local legacy for the area from the wind farm.

Banks staff have brought together all the parish broadband champions from the surrounding area to form a local broadband steering group, and their involvement will ensure that the final broadband solution both meets the needs of local people and delivers maximum benefit to the local community.

The three-turbine Killington wind farm would be located to the south of the A684 Sedbergh Road, adjacent to Junction 37 of the M6, and would have an installed capacity of around 10.2MW.

Up to 50 people could be working on site through the construction of the wind farm, and local businesses would also be able to tender for contracts worth around £4m relating to different aspects of its development, including construction, security, accommodation and catering..

Part of the proposed wind farm site is owned by Killington Educational Foundation and Killington United Charities, and both organisations would also benefit directly from revenues generated by the new wind farm, if it is approved.

A poll carried out late last year by the Killington Parish Meeting of everyone on Killington’s 2012 electoral roll to assess local opinion about the wind farm found that a clear majority of those that took part were in favour of it.

Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, adds: “Killington’s location and geography causes obvious broadband access difficulties, and improving this situation has been identified by both community representatives and local people as a real priority for the area.

“Banks’ aim is always to utilise the benefits funds linked to our schemes in ways which meet the priorities expressed by the local community, so we’re able to make a long-lasting positive difference to the area, and the outline plans we’ve worked up have the potential to radically improve internet access for a substantial number of homes across the area.

“Improving broadband speeds is one of a range of benefits that the Killington wind farm would bring to the local area if it is approved, and we remain encouraged by both the results of the trial so far, and the levels of interest and support that we have had from local people for the whole package that we’re putting together around this project.”

Anyone who would like any further information about the proposed Killington scheme should contact the Banks Renewables’ community engagement team on 0844 209 1515 or 0191 378 6100, or via killington@banksgroup.co.uk

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