Tom Parkinson and I are delighted to welcome you to the first joint newsletter from the two electricity generation co-operatives at Westmill. This is a practical illustration of how the two boards are working together and planning for the future.
In this newsletter you can find out about:
• Westmill Solar and Wind Co-operatives awarded Fair Tax accreditation
• Westmill Wind Generation
• A visit from our MP - David Johnston
• New PPA and move from Midcounties to Octopus
• Longer-term planning for the site
• WeSET Update
All the best
Mark Luntley and Tom Parkinson
Chairs of the Westmill Wind and Westmill Solar Co-operatives
Westmill Solar and Wind Co-operatives awarded Fair Tax
Tax matters. Taxes help pay for essential services. We think it is vital that businesses all pay the correct rate of tax. Westmill Solar and Wind were recently independently accredited as Fair Tax businesses.
Both organisations commit to paying the right rate of tax and meeting both the spirit and letter of the law. We see this as an integral part of our co-operative identity. Together we are the biggest co-operative renewable energy site in the UK, and we are leading the way
as the first renewable generation co-operatives to secure the Fair Tax accreditation.
For the full story and policy please read the press release here.
Westmill Wind Generation
So far, 2020 has been a very good year for wind generation. From January to October all five turbines have generated 9,442 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity – 23% ahead of forecast. The average wind speed at the site was 6 metres/second. The lowest wind speed month was May 2020 at 4 metres/second whilst the windiest month was February when wind speeds averaged 9 metres/second and output exceeded budget by 48%!
Over the period the wind blew mainly from the south-west (which is better for our production). Westmill Wind Farm has so far this year displaced 2,413 metric tonnes of CO2. In calculating the emissions savings, we have used the 2019 factors only.
A visit from our MP - David Johnston
We were delighted to host a site visit for our new MP, David Johnston, on 31 July. Mark Luntley, Tom Parkinson, Mike Blanch (Chair of WeSET) and Adam Twine (the landowner) took the opportunity to describe the achievements and aspirations of the two co-operatives and WeSET (Westmill Sustainable Trust).
David was particularly interested in WeSET’s educational work and Wind and Solar’s efforts to encourage younger members. He is also a co-sponsor of the Local Electricity Bill, a crossparty initiative to enable community energy to be supplied directly to local users – a goal Westmill has long advocated.
New PPA and move from Midcounties to Octopus
In the summer we were approached by Co-op Energy's parent company, The Midcounties Co-operative, who we sold the energy from three turbines to. They were looking to exit the supply market and were seeking to mutually terminate our Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). We believed it was in our best interest to agree to this, and we secured a new PPA with Octopus Energy (through Co-op Community Energy).
This meant we were able to achieve a better price for our energy and a better rate for the Renewable Obligation Certificates we produce. It also means all of our output is now going to Octopus Energy, who ‘ring-fence' the energy for Co-op Energy's Community Power tariff.
Longer-term planning for the site
As we look to the future, we have been assessing the various options with regards to the turbines themselves. We have had initial discussions with the landowner and founder of our co-operative, Adam Twine, about this idea. One option is to secure an extension to the current planning permission (which runs to 2033), for a further 10-15 years. We hope to take a proposal to the planning authority.
This is a low wind site, so the turbines have had less wear and tear. However, there is significant work to ensure the turbines could operate effectively over a longer life and to model how this would impact the finances. As a co-operative these decisions ultimately lie with the membership, and the plan is for the board to develop a proposal for members to consider in 2021.
The Westmill Centre has been three years in planning. It will take the form of a yurt with capacity for 70 people, a toilet block, eight parking bays (including at least one electric vehicle charge point) and a coach parking bay.
The project has been funded by grants from LEADER (an EU scheme) and the Local Enterprise Partnership / UK Government’s Getting Building Fund, as well as from WestmillSolar, Westmill Wind, Sustainable Charlbury, NatureSave and the Low Carbon Hub.
We are now in the final stages of the tendering process and it is hoped that ground will be broken in the spring, with the centre completed and formally opened in the summer of 2021.
WeSET are also excited to launch a new free, downloadable education pack. Working in collaboration with Westmill Wind and Solar, as well as The Midcounties Co-operative, WeSET have created a resource of six lessons and accompanying materials aimed at children of approximately 6-12 years. They explore topics including energy, electricity, renewable and community energy, and sustainability.
All lessons include worksheets and practical activity suggestions to engage, educate and empower children by encouraging conversation, questioning, experimentation and collaboration. We hope that children will enjoy learning more about the exciting possibilities renewable energies bring and how, through co-operation and working together, we can create a more sustainable future.
WeSET are running virtual tours of the Westmill site on 3 December and 7 January at 7pm. Tours can be booked via firstname.lastname@example.org.