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28 Feb 2013 08:02:12

MP opens first major wind energy development on prison land

Wind energy developer Partnerships for Renewables (PfR) has today unveiled its first completed turbine installation at HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, with a formal opening by local MP Gordon Henderson.

The two-turbine, 4.6MW development is the result of a collaboration with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Sheppey Prisons Cluster. The turbines provide the MoJ a rent based on a percentage from sale of the electricity. This saves money for the public purse, creates clean energy on public land and helps the MoJ to improve its sustainability credentials.

"One of the responsibilities of my role as Governor is to find ways to reduce the overheads of the prison and therefore provide better value for the taxpayer," explained Sarah Coccia, governor of the Sheppey Prison Cluster. "The development of the wind energy park has been fascinating to both watch and be part of. I am very proud to be able to view these turbines, now built, from my office window!"

PfR also hopes, subject to a public sector procurement process, to operate a future private wire so that the prison can directly benefit from the electricity generated by the turbines, cutting operating costs and further improving the prison’s carbon footprint.

The turbines were formally switched on by Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, at a launch event attended by a range of local stakeholders, including parish and district councillors, and representatives of the various consultees and professionals who have been involved with the project, as well as the company’s shareholders and staff.

"I am a big supporter of renewable energy, not only from an environmental perspective, but because I believe it is vital to long term energy security in our country. Despite what the critics would have us believe, wind can become a cheap and clean energy source," commented Gordon Henderson MP.

"Of course, where wind turbines are located is important. I believe that on balance these two turbines are in an acceptable location which is why I am delighted to officially switch them on."

Extensive community engagement has been a crucial factor in the successful commissioning of the turbines. A contribution of over £10,000 a year will be made to a community benefit fund to assist projects in the local area. Local parish councillors, stakeholder groups, and individual residents are invited to take part in the decisions on the allocation of the fund, a process entirely independent of the developer.

A great deal of work was undertaken by PfR to ensure that sensitive reptile species such as grass snake, adder, common lizard and slow worm were protected during construction. Bird monitoring and habitat management will be ongoing over a 90 acre area for the whole 25 year life of the project, supporting and protecting key species such as marsh harriers and bats. Habitat improvements include a converted "bat bunker" in an old air raid shelter and a reptile enhancement area covering 2.4 acres.

PfR also engaged with the local fishing club that uses a nearby pond to turn waste and material recycling requirements to the advantage of the local community. The pond was leaking, so PfR gave the club the clay dug out for the turbines’ foundations and relined it for them. They also carried over the aggregate from the temporary construction compound so that the anglers could have an all-weather car park for the first time.

Stephen Ainger, CEO of Partnerships for Renewables commented: "I am delighted that we have reached the milestone of our first development project to generate power. Standford Hill sets us on the way to achieving our target portfolio of 460MW of onshore wind generating capacity, the majority of which will be delivered in partnership with public bodies.

"This is a big step for our company and its partners, and I hope it is a development that both the Ministry of Justice and the Isle of Sheppey can feel proud of."

Onshore wind is recognised as one of the least costly and most easily delivered forms of renewable energy. The UK enjoys the greatest wind resource in Europe and already has the largest portfolio of installed offshore capacity in the world. Since 2008, wind energy has more than doubled its contribution to the UK energy supply.

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