Members of a North East branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A) have been on site at the region’s newest onshore wind farm to find out more about its positive environmental and community impact.
Eight members of the U3A’s Wear and Tees Valley group spent an afternoon at County Durham-headquartered Banks Renewables’ £17.5m Moor House wind farm, which sits on land to the north east of Barmpton, as part of their continuing studies around the environment.
The U3A party spent time in the six turbine-scheme’s main control centre, observing how the systems that run it work and hearing about how continuing advances in technology are helping to improve its operational efficiency.
They also has the chance to walk across to and go inside one of the turbine towers, where technical manager Mark Rowcroft explained more about the site’s overall layout and how the turbine blades are designed to maximise energy generation.
The revenues generated for the £750,000 community benefits fund that was created as part of the Moor House scheme and the way in which this money is allocated locally were also on the agenda.
The University of the Third Age aims to encourage groups of older people to come together and continue their enjoyment of learning in subjects of interest to them.
U3A member Edward Hirst, who organised the visit, says: “Most of us only get to see wind farms from a distance, so to have the chance to get up close was a great opportunity for our group.
“Our visit happened to be on a fairly windy day and the speed at which the turbines were moving was extremely impressive, especially when we were standing at the base of the tower.
“A great deal of careful consideration and detailed work has clearly gone into engaging with the surrounding communities around this project and into ensuring that money from the wind farm is available to local groups to help them make community projects happen.
“This was a really useful and positive visit, and has given us all a much clearer understanding of how wind farms fit into the UK’s overall energy infrastructure.”
The Moor House wind farm began generating clean green electricity at the beginning of the year after the successful completion of testing and commissioning work, and has since begun to award the first grants from its community benefits fund, with the decision on which projects win support being agreed by a funding committee made up of local community representatives.
An annual allowance of £15,000 is available from the fund in support of local community groups, environmental projects and voluntary organisations, while the same amount again will be available every year to support activities related to employment and training opportunities.
A further one-off allocation of £50,000 has been ring-fenced to support energy efficiency and micro-renewables projects for community buildings within the area surrounding the wind farm.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, who hosted the visit, adds: “The Moor House wind farm is now operating at full capacity and we’re very pleased to be able to share the details of how it works with such an enthusiastic group of visitors.
“The funding available from the Moor House community fund is already making a long-term difference to the facilities and activities that local people are able to access, and we’re always keen to hear from local groups and good causes with ideas for how it might best be used.
“Onshore wind is recognised as being the most effective technology in delivering carbon reduction targets for the UK at the lowest cost for the consumer, and has a key role to play in generating more of the electricity that we all use in powering our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals via renewable means.”
Eligibility for the Moor House community fund is normally restricted to projects and activities within the communities at Sadberge, Bishopton, East & West Newbiggin, Bishopton, Little Stainton, Great Stainton, Great Burdon, Barmpton and Brafferton, as well as areas of Whinfield, Harrogate Hill, Beaumont Hill and Coatham Mundeville which are north of the A1150 and east of the A167.
Projects in neighbouring areas may also be eligible if they can be shown to benefit people living within the closest communities.
Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for grant funding from it should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 or visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/development-with-care/bankscommunityfund/wind-farm-community-fund
The Moor House wind farm fund is independently administered by the County Durham Community Foundation.