The Windmills are 25 – What now for Cornwall’s energy needs? Could “mining for heat” be next?

Delabole Windfarm could have cooked 40 million Christmas Turkeys by now

There are sites that you remember as you leave or enter Cornwall, a little bit of home to take with you or that one landmark that says, ‘home now’. For some it’s the pool up Bodmin Moor, or the sight of the old Goss Moor bridge, or the first glimpse of the Mount as the train finally pulls into Penzance.

Well another sight has has become familiar in Cornwall to join this list of elder statesmen, 25 years ago another landmark was created – yes, the windmillls along the A30 are 25 years old this week.

Since establishing Delabole windfarm as the UK’s first commercial windfarm back in the day, Cornwall has continued to lead the way in the development of renewable energies and the transition to a low carbon world.

Cornwall is well known for its abundant natural resources, including wind, solar, biomass, hydro, geothermal and marine, that lend themselves to generation of clean sources of energy.

Using Euro funds the Council has worked with partners to introduce a range of innovative and ground breaking projects designed to make the most of what’s around us.

“Cornwall has long been a pioneer in low carbon energy” said Julian German, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Culture.

“25 years ago we were at the forefront of the emergence of commercial wind energy. With funding available to support deep geothermal and control over the world’s foremost wave energy testing device, Wave Hub, Cornwall remains firmly at the forefront of clean energy innovation.

“But it is not just renewable energy technologies that are important to Cornwall. Cornwall’s energy system has to work for Cornish people. That is why we are also supporting community energy and why Cornwall is a place where smart energy tools are being piloted”

“But, while we recognise these significant successes, we believe we can do even more to maximise the benefits of renewable energy for residents and Cornwall’s economy. Our Devolution Deal is the first of its kind in the country to include a set of commitments on energy which are designed to bring about the changes we need to ensure that Cornwall gets the most out of its energy system.”

As a result of these initiatives Cornwall now produces around 32% of the electricity required to light its homes and run its businesses from renewable energies such as solar and wind power.

25 years ago, in December 1991, Peter Edwards the farmer from Delabole gave the world an early Christmas present when he switched on the wind farm– and the UK wind industry was born!  Back then wind power was not seen as a viable source of energy, but now the wind industry is booming and continues to move from strength to strength.

Peter, is now affectionately known as the “grandfather” of the UK wind industry. He told us “after the wind farm started generating, one of the main criticisms was that the amount we contributed to the National Grid was so insignificant that we shouldn’t have bothered. That’s why it’s so satisfying to see just how far wind energy has come and how it now competes with nuclear. As Bob Dylan once wrote ‘The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind’”   

Peter Edwards

Delabole 25 years on: Project key facts

  • Delabole Wind Farm in North Cornwall was the first commercial wind farm in the UK, completed and commissioned in 1991 by the Edwards family.
  • Number of turbines: 4
  • Installed capacity: 9.2MW
  • Annual renewable electricity output: 25,000MWh (actual, 2014)
  • Homes powered: 6,200* (estimated)
  •  To date the wind farm has generated a whopping 340GWh of power. That’s enough to boil 3.4 billion kettles or cook more than 40 million turkeys!
  • Good Energy bought the wind farm in 2002 and has owned and operated it ever since. As a result the Edwards family are shareholders in Good Energy Group.
  • Between 2009 and 2011, Good Energy invested £11.8 million repowering the wind farm, replacing ten 400kW turbines with four machines and more than doubling the total installed capacity of the site to 9.2MW.
  • For the lifetime of the wind farm, Good Energy will contribute at least £9,200 per year (rising with inflation) to a community fund. This fund is controlled by a committee of local people and used to support community initiatives.
  • To date the committee has allocated grants to a wide range of local community groups and projects, for example to St Piran’s playschool for an outdoor play area and willow shelter, to Delabole Allotment Society for new fencing and the village cricket club for solar PV on the clubhouse roof.


So What’s in the Future

Specific Cornwall Council led projects include :

Mining for Heat – A new deep geothermal industry in Cornwall –using the “hot dry rocks” deep beneath our feet to provide heat and power for local businesses. Supported by European funding, this exciting new “mining for heat industry” will potentially provide 24/7 clean electricity and heat to homes and businesses as well as delivering affordable low carbon heat to attract industries with high heat demand, such as agriculture and horticulture. This will create new jobs in Cornwall and help local businesses produce goods that are currently imported from outside of the Duchy.

Solar energy – we became the first local authority in the country to develop our own solar farm. We now produce 8MW of solar PV and have inspired other local authorities as well as our own communities. Today, more than 5,000 Cornish residents actively support or want to invest in community energy.
Community energy – we established a £2.5m loan fund to support local communities to set up their own renewable energy projects. So far more than 1MW has been installed using the fund – generating enough power for more than 420 Cornish homes and providing a source of funding for a range of community initiatives.
Electric cars – we secured Government funding to create the most comprehensive electric vehicle charging network in rural Europe, with charging points installed at 26 locations across Cornwall.
Enterprise Zones – we worked with the Government and other partners to develop a new marine energy Enterprise Zone to help attract millions of pounds of investment from the marine sector into Cornwall.
Wave Hub – we successfully concluded a deal to transfer the Wave Hub from the Government. Wave Hub provides a fully grid-connected wave energy site located approximately 10 miles off the north coast of Cornwall and, together with the Marine Renewables Business Park in Hayle, offers an exceptional opportunity to attract international inward investment to Cornwall and support local device developers and the supply chain
Jubilee Pool – we worked with partners to secure £1.4m of European funding (with £355,000 private sector match funding) for a ground breaking project to heat a section of the seawater lido in Penzance with clean, natural energy from a geothermal well, enhancing what is already a unique experience to attract even more visitors and extend the pool’s opening times.