During my time working on the broadband in the villages, I have often wondered whether we could do a similar thing with windmills or solar panels.
At first I thought an option would be for people to own and run their own small wind turbines on their house roofs or on a pole in the garden. Having looked at the cost and output of small wind turbines, I came to the conclusion quite early on, that they don't produce enough electricity and are too costly. This can bee seen in the figures in the spreadsheet showing data for small turbines. These figures or produced from the actual wind data collected at the top of a 16m pole at the highest point at Fishpools Farm, Frankton.
For example, the Swift Turbine, which is an award winning and easily recognisable design, costs over £5000 and generates just over £330 of electricity per year, would only just pay for itself in it's expected 20 year lifespan. This machine would, at best, only generate half the electricity needed for an average home in a year, and that is, if you have a good open windy place in which to install one in the first place.
The Case for Community Ownership
It is clear that over the next 10 years we will see more and more wind turbines in the landscape as we strive to meet the 20% target for energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The principal advantages of community ownership are that the costs for installing equipment are much lower per house than privately owned small turbines by a factor of about 4:1. The other advantage is that the investment can be concentrated at the best site, to provide the most electricity from the wind.
Here are some success stories of other communities building their own wind farms:
Bro Dyfi Project, Wales, West Mill, South Oxfordshire
Here is a link to a PDF suggesting legal and financial frameworks for setting up community wind projects:
Bankable models for Community Ownership of Wind Farms