Internet service providers express interest in Killington wind farm fast broadband project

January 27, 2014 | Armistead News

Two Internet Service Providers have expressed an interest in being part of a new project linked to a proposed wind farm that could bring high-speed broadband to households in South Lakeland.

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

Transmitters were installed on the permanent 60m wind monitoring mast at Banks’ nearby Armistead wind farm, as well as at around 60 relay points which transmitted the broadband signal across the area, and the initial two-month system trial found that it led to an average thirty-fold increase in the available broadband speed, which is comparable to the speeds enjoyed in urban areas such as Carlisle and Kendal.

Fixed wireless telecommunications specialists Speednet Scotland, which managed the original trial, and Kendal-based Kencomp Internet have now expressed their interest in providing a service to the local community if the wind farm goes ahead, and more ISPs are expected to follow suit in the near future.

The project would be delivered in partnership with the local community’s broadband champions, whom Banks has brought together to form a local broadband steering group, and they are currently developing plans for how the funding might best be used to grow local broadband coverage and increase the speeds available in their respective areas.

Mark Andrews, who owns Old Hutton-based technology business KITS, says: “I’ve long felt that the use of a wireless system such as this as the best – if not only – way of bringing faster broadband to South Cumbria, but without the investment that Banks has put into trialling it, we’d probably still be facing a long wait for anything like this to happen.

“They’ve taken a very inclusive approach to developing this concept, and have laid the foundations for a way of working that I think could easily be rolled out by South Lakeland District Council across many other communities around the area.”

“Having faster scalable broadband brings economic growth and development. The positive impact this would have on many local businesses, schools and homes is potentially huge, and the local broadband champions are all very keen to be part of realising this undoubted potential should the wind farm get approved.”

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

If the Killington wind farm planning application is approved, part of a fund of over £50,000 a year will be made available to spend on bringing a faster broadband service to the communities around it, with Banks installing an 80m high mast at the site that will beam wireless broadband to local homes.

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

Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, adds:  “The work we’ve already done shows how we could achieve the improved broadband speeds that local people have told us they want, and the interest we’re getting from internet service providers in being part of the project gives further credibility to it.

“Killington would have a purpose built mast to host a number of ISPs and the wind farm would generate a fund of over £50,000 a year for the local community to expand the network.

“Improving broadband speeds offers many benefits, such as helping local businesses compete more effectively with rivals in areas with better communications infrastructure and enabling local children to keep up with their peers in those areas by enabling them to access information for their homework without delays caused by a lack of bandwidth.

“Sharing the benefits of our schemes with the communities in which they’re sited has long been central to the way in which we operate, and we’re keen to get on with delivering what we know is possible in this situation, but this can only happen if we get permission for the Killington wind farm at the forthcoming South Lakeland District Council planning committee meeting.”

The broadband improvement project has been put forward as an example of how the Killington community benefits fund, which could amount to around £1.25 million over the 25-year lifespan of the scheme, might be used to secure a positive, long-term local legacy for the area from the three-turbine wind farm, which would be located to the south of the A684 Sedbergh Road, adjacent to Junction 37 of the M6.

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.

Phil Dyke continues: “Modern, efficient, indigenous onshore wind farms have a crucial role to play in generating the energy that we all use without producing any harmful carbon emissions, and their construction also brings a range of tangible commercial, community and employment benefits to the communities in which they are located.”

Anyone who would like any further information about any aspect of the proposed Killington scheme should either visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/killington or contact the Banks Renewables’ community engagement team on 0191 378 6100 or via killington@banksgroup.co.uk

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