Wind turbine expansion on county council owned land could give �700,000 a year windfall to Cambs

CANNY county councillors believe they have stumbled upon a multi million pound windfall in coming years by agreeing to rent publicly owned land to create four new wind farms.

Finance chief Nick Dawe says: “Based on current values the council’s income could peak at an annual rent of more than �700,000.

“The corresponding agricultural rent for the land lost would be less than �1,000.”

A nine month trawl through Cambridgeshire County Council’s 33,000 acres which they lease to tenants has produced a short list of four farms which they feel best suit wind turbines.

They are:

* Crowtree Farm, Farcet

* Whitehall Farm, Littleport

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* Wolvey Farm, Coveney

* Morley’s Farm, Warboys.

And when Cabinet meets later this month they will be asked if the council should consider helping to jointly develop the wind farms – with the potential for even bigger earnings.

“Renewable energy is part of the council’s vision for a low carbon economy,” says Mr Dawe.

“The further development of wind energy on council land will also contribute towards diversification and enhanced income streams and improve commercial prospects from the farms estate.”

The hunt for suitable sites began last May and as many as 35 potential sites were examined and Bidwells given the task of opening negotiations with possible wind farm developers.

One of the key questions asked of developers was how much rent they would be prepared to pay the council as well as their offers of “community benefits” and whether they would welcome a joint business venture with the council.

Mr Dawe says that five developers made presentations last October to a panel headed by Councillor John Reynolds, the portfolio holder for resources and performance, and from that the framework was discussed so that consultations could begin in April The council believes the wind farms could be operational by 2014-16.

“The council’s involvement in the project is limited to leasing the site of the wind turbines to the developer and is low risk,” says Mr Dawe. “The cost of removing turbines, should the project fail, is covered by a sum of money held as a bond and is usually a requirement of the initial planning consent.

“For example at Red Tile Wind Farm engineers advised on the cost of removal, the developers then paid that sum to the council who hold it on their behalf. This amount is reviewed periodically. “

He emphasises in his report that the council’s involvement will be purely the leasing of the site but the option remains to investment in the development.

“The greatest return to the council would be obtained by sharing development costs with the developer but this carries the highest risk.”

Cabinet is expected to give the go ahead to the proposals but insist on extensive public consultation before reaching a final decision.