A wind turbine project worth up to £50m overlooking Preston’s Docks could be a step closer following a deal to build a test mast at the proposed site.
Preston Council has signed a £250,000 contract with engineering and design consultancy, Hyder Consulting (UK) Limited.
As specialists in wind and renewable energy projects, Hyder will be advising the council on the next steps of the project, including erecting an 80-metre wind test mast on the Wallend Road site.
If experts find the scheme is viable after the test – which is due to get underway in January – plans will be submitted to build three or four turbines, each up to 120 metres tall.
Coun Robert Boswell, cabinet member for environment and sustainability, said: “Preston’s civic wind energy scheme could be worth up to £50m for the city and local communities.
“The appointment of Hyder is an important step. Hyder will be helping the council to assess whether the scheme is viable. This includes putting up the test mast to measure wind speeds.
“Everyone knows it can get quite windy down on the docks. But it will take at least a year before we know whether wind speeds will be enough to generate electricity at sufficient levels to make the scheme viable.
“Hyder will also be advising on other aspects of the project, such as the engineering and environmental challenges.”
In civic energy schemes, profits made by selling the energy to the national grid are re-invested back into the local area. Preston Council believes the project could benefit the local economy by up to £50m over the next 25 years, although a Government shift in funding to offshore windfarms, announced yesterday, could have a drastic impact on that.
Coun Boswell said: “Clearly generating income for the city is a major factor given the huge budget cuts being placed on us by Government, but the project is about much more than this.
“As we have unfortunately seen with recent extreme weather events, climate change is real and its affects are devastating.
“Moving towards green, renewable energy has to be the way forward and we are pleased to be leading the way and exploring renewable energy options for the benefit of Preston and society as a whole.
“This £50m figure is just an estimate and, obviously, that could come down once we know the details of what the Government announced yesterday. But Preston will certainly benefit from it.”
Simon Randall, managing director (energy and environment) of Hyder added: “Hyder is delighted to be working with Preston City Council on this exciting project.
“As a civic green energy scheme, with all profits going back to the local community, it is an innovative and pioneering endeavour, and one that Hyder is pleased to support.
“While we recognise that there is a much to do before the scheme can proceed, as one of the UK’s leading renewable energy engineering consultancies, we are committed to doing what we can to help the Council move this project forward.”
One stumbling block could be the wind farm’s proximity to the flightpath for BAE Systems airfield just down the estuary at Warton.
But Preston are hoping the Department of Energy and Climate Change will intervene to make planning permission possible. A decision on that could be imminent.
If it gets the go-ahead the 80-metre test mast would be the second tallest structure in Preston, behind St Walburge’s Church spire which stands at 94 metres. But it would tower over the city’s other tall buildings such as the Minster (63 metres), the Guild Centre (61), the Unicentre (59), Sessions House (55) and the two Avenham Flats blocks (54).
It would also stand taller than Blackpool’s Big One rollercoaster (65), but would still be dwarfed by Blackpool Tower which is more than 158 metres high.