In an initiative this morning certain to provoke rural Conservative MPs, but probably to be welcomed even by shire-dwellers, onshore wind champions Octopus Energy today appealed to landowners for their ‘Plots for Kilowatts’.
Seeking ten candidate pockets of under-used land each at least of 10 acres, – approximately six football pitches’ worth, – the generator holds out the prospect of bill discounts to rural dwellers agreeing to have a turbine in their localities.
‘Plots for Kilowatts’ builds on what Octopus claims as the success of its Octopus Fan Club. Launched in January 2021, the outreach venture has attracted registrations, according to the retailer, from over 10,000 communities interested in hosting a turbine. Half have gone further, getting in touch to request their own ‘fan’.
Already piloted in two communities in Yorkshire and Caerphilly, south Wales around single turbines, the club offers discounts said to be ‘up to’ half off their power bills.
Octopus aims to repeat the incentive in 30 more locations by 2024. This summer, ‘Plots for Kilowatts’ aims to find ten candidates.
Hopeful spots will be evaluated in Octopus’ ‘dating agency’ platform. This will link interested communities with landowners able to provide land. Data on local environmental impact, wind speeds and access to DNO and national grids will refine the selection, using advanced AI and data mapping.
Octopus will then pick the ten highest scoring locations, and refer them as candidates for D-BEIS’s consideration, bolstering the Johnson administration’s supposed plans for onshore wind, updated in its Energy Security Strategy.
Observers found almost nothing in the government’s April 7 paper to encourage onshore wind. Advocates in one voluntary lobbying group, Community Windpower, labelled the delayed paper a ‘huge disappointment’.
Halving in cost in the last decade, onshore turbines rival big solar farms as the UK’s quickest and cheapest generation technology to deploy.
Comparing in 2020 rival technologies’ generation costs, D-BEIS forecast power from turbines erected in 2025 would cost around £46/MWh, levelised over an onshore park’s lifetime, against £85/MWh for a new gas power station, even one with carbon capture and storage.
Falling battery & turbine prices will have since pushed onshore wind’s costs still lower.
Town versus shire
A vocal group of Conservatives at Westminster, centred around the Net Zero Group, appear immune to onshore wind’s compelling economics. Leicestershire MP Chris Heaton-Harris led anti-turbine campaigns under Cameron; as chief whip he now enforces discipline among the government’s MPs.
Yet recent evidence indicates they consistently misrepresent national opinion, as well as revealing a shires-versus-town split.
Low-carbon power sold locally at half the national price would persuade nearly nine out of ten British households to have an onshore turbine located in their postcode, research among 2,000 households, both urban and rural, revealed last month. Octopus commissioned the study.
In parallel to commercially-sourced clean electricity, sale to local catchments of co-operatively-controlled power is the regulatory freedom sought by Britain’s 300 or so active energy co-ops. With almost half of all MPs now backing a Right to Local Electricity, campaigners at Power for People say discussions with D-BEIS ministers are progressing.
Energy & climate minister Greg Hands, MP for urban Chelsea & Fulham, endorsed Octopus’ ‘Plots for Kilowatts’ initiative.
“Now more than ever, we need bold plans to scale up and accelerate clean and secure energy, as set out in the government’s British energy security strategy”, said the minister.
“Octopus Energy’s new ‘Plots for Kilowatts’ campaign is an exceptional example of just this”, Hands went on.
“This cooperation between industry and local communities is an important development and could help drive forward new onshore wind projects in local communities that want them, across the country.”
Octopus says the UK’s top 30 landowners own over 1.5 million acres. If just 1% of that was rented for wind turbines, the firm calculates that over 1,500 wind turbines could be built.
Zoisa North-Bond, Octopus Energy Generation’s CEO said: “It’s crystal clear we need more renewables, with wind playing a significant role.
“Launching ‘Plots for Kilowatts’ will accelerate this, so we can build more onshore wind quickly and at scale”, she added. “We’re now asking UK landowners to join us on our mission to dramatically accelerate people-led green energy”.
In total here and overseas Octopus Group plans 18 GW of new generation projects by 2027.
Landowners can register their interest here. The firm later released a photo – above – with a Union flag superimposed on an Octopus turbine.