A 20 year plan for a wind and solar farm which will generate enough power to run every home in Purbeck, has finally been completed for local landowner Will Bond – and comes with an added green bonus.
Thirteen hectares of grassland – about the size of 20 international football pitches – is being converted back to traditional Purbeck heathland and is expected to become home to rare mammals, reptiles, birds and plants.
Blades are fitted to the 100-metre tall hub of a wind turbine at Masters Quarry
Enough power for 20,000 homes
The last of four 100 metre tall wind turbines – twice the height of Nelson’s Column – has just been completed at Masters Quarry in East Stoke, near Wareham, and should start sending power to the national grid by early January 2024.
Within weeks of that, almost 90,000 solar panels will also start pumping out electricity and together should produce enough to keep some 20,000 homes running – equivalent to all the households in Swanage, Wareham, Bere Regis, Lulworth, Langton and Worth Matravers.
Profits from the power generated will fund conservation work at East Stoke for the next 25 years and local opposition to the wind farm appears to have blown itself out.
Almost lost in the clouds, the hub is fitted to the last of four turbines at East Stoke
“I find the turbines quite elegant”
Landowner Will Bond, who carries out ecological restoration for the National Trust and other charities, said:
“There hasn’t been a single protestor as the final phase of work has been carried out this autumn – in fact a lot of local people who were opposed to the scheme early on have been asking me for years when it was going to be built as they felt it was taking too long.
“Some of the most vocal opposition was from those who were going to put their houses on the market and had been told that it would affect their property value, but they have long since sold and moved on.
“The project was never solely about renewable energy, it is also about land restoration. We have 13 hectares of very poor quality fields, converted during the war to help with food production, but under the panels we will have sheep grazing and we can bring back a lot of local flora and fauna.
“It will be quite well protected from disturbance, much more so than open fields with tractors and livestock.
“I said right from the very start that the one criticism you can make of wind turbines is that they are huge and very visible – but what has surprised me with these, having put them up, is that I find them to be quite elegant, slimmer than I’d visualised.”
Local landowner Will Bond on site at Masters Quarry with the huge LG 1750 crane
Turbines put up in five months
As the last of the 80 ton hubs containing a generator and transformer was lifted atop the 100 metre tower on Wednesday 6th December 2023 by an LG 1750 crane, the largest and heaviest road crane in Europe, the blades could barely be seen in low cloud.
Installation of the second hand turbines from Belgium has only taken five months, in comparison to the 20 years it took to get planning permission, win appeals and then deal with the collapse of construction supply chains following Covid lockdowns and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
For the next few weeks, electrical testing will take place to make sure that the grade quality of power produced is acceptable before the final connection to Wareham substation is switched on.
Some 13 hectares of newly planted heathland will restore ecological balance to the area
New heath to be home to rare wildlife
Will Bond said:
“If all goes well, we should be ready to start producing power for the National Grid by early to mid January 2024. It would have been lovely to be generating by Christmas, but I think that is a bit too much to hope for.
“There was a lot of preparation work, getting the site access good enough for the lorries – the turbines have very long blades and the crane needed for construction is the largest and the heaviest in Europe, but once you get everything lined up then it all happens quite fast.
“I am relieved to be at the end of this journey and looking forward to a break, but as part of the package and the whole reason I wanted to do this, is to recreate heathland around the turbines, and managing the land to maximise the ecological benefits does involve many more years of work.
“I always wanted to be fully involved with the project – if you gave it to an investor they would eventually just want to reduce their costs and increase their outputs, whereas my drive is to use the income to do some really good ecology in Purbeck.”
The new heath is expected to be home to all of Britain’s reptiles, including rare smooth snakes and sand lizards among other animals, as well as threatened butterflies, birds, bats and plants.
Banks of solar panels at Stokeford Farm will help provide enough energy to power 20,000 homes
“I’m in this for the long haul”
“The benefits from the wind turbines and the solar panels mean that both projects have a 25 year funding stream guaranteed to manage the ecology here, and there are not many nature reserve managers who can say they know what their budget is for the next 25 years.
“I tend to think in terms of habitat rather than species – pretty much any specialist species is exciting to have, but they tend to come as an accident of getting the habitat right rather than creating a niche specifically for them.
“Restoring the heath will get started quite quickly, although you won’t see serious results for the next 20 years – but I’m not worried about it, I’m in this for the long haul not immediate results.
“It’s a massive job but it’s a relief to be finally getting there. We’ve got to do something about climate change – I’m in a position to enable this to happen and I think I would be socially irresponsible if I didn’t.”
Members of Dorset CPRE, pictured here in 2009, led the original protest against the wind farm
Initial plans refused in 2011
Plans for the Purbeck wind farm, situated in a sand quarry which is part of Stokeford Farm where the Bond family has farmed for 300 years, was first proposed in 2004 but an initial planning application was refused by Purbeck District Council in 2011.
That decision was later overturned after a public inquiry, but campaigners went to the High Court in 2013 in an attempt to stop the plans, losing a subsequent appeal in 2014, after the initial judgement went against them.
Opposition at the time was led by the Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural England branch, including commissioning a specialist noise consultant and a landscape and environment report to evaluate the impact of the turbines at East Stoke.
But a Dorset CPRE representative said that they now do not wish to comment on the opening of the new wind and solar farm in Purbeck.
Will Bond, a partner in the Alaska Wind Farm project, says the venture will benefit ecology in Purbeck
- See drone footage of the wind turbines and solar farm at East Stoke on YouTube