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Ambition Community Energy CIC Wind Turbine

Wind turbine

European Regional Development FundThe West of England Mayoral Combined Authority awarded £500,000 in capital grant to an innovative, onshore wind turbine in Avonmouth, Bristol as part of the Local Energy Scheme. The project was developed by the local community in Lawrence Weston, working collaboratively with its partner organisations. The grant funding came from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The project will provide a long-term income for the local community.

The opportunity

Ambition Lawrence Weston (ALW), a local charity, identified the potential to develop a wind turbine on nearby Bristol City Council owned land in 2016 and setup Ambition Community Energy C.I.C. (ACE) to develop the project.

Over the next years it was developed by David Tudgey and Dr Charles R Gamble with the support and assistance of the ACE Board. Financial close was achieved in March 2022 and construction commenced. The turbine is now in full operation.

It will enable the community of Lawrence Weston to benefit from surplus income from the sale of renewable energy thus providing a long-term income to deliver the Lawrence Weston Community and Climate Plan (pdf) This will help fund their work to tackle fuel poverty and other objectives identified within the community plan.

"The successful construction and operation of England's largest wind turbine is a testament to the dedication and vision of local residents, Ambition Lawrence Weston and ACE because it is community owned. This achievement sets a precedent for community-led renewable energy projects and highlights the crucial role that communities and residents can play in driving the transition to clean energy."

Mark Pepper, a resident and Development Manager at ALW as well as a director of ACE

David Tudgey, the Project Development Manager at ACE highlighted the project's impact on the community: "Many Lawrence Weston residents are struggling with fuel poverty due to poor insulation and low-energy efficiency. Ambition Lawrence Weston has taken the lead in implementing their community plan to address these issues and tackle the climate emergency, providing full support to the construction of this wind turbine project."  Over £100,000 per year of surplus income is expected to be donated to ALW to further the work outlined in the Lawrence Weston Community & Climate Plan.

The social value arising from the delivery of the community plan is £340,000 per annum. In the first few of years however, income is used to pay off the construction loan finance used to build the turbine. There are no shareholders in ACE, so it cannot be sold or acquired.

  • Annual savings of 3,516 tCO2e (using 2017 conversion factors)
  • £ icon £5.5m costs
  • Building icon 150m height and 115m diameter. England's biggest onshore wind turbine.
  • Hand with money in it icon £500,000 capital grant

Renewable energy & greenhouse gas emission reductions

The preparation of the turbine foundation, site access road and construction areas took seven months to complete. The 4.2MW turbine was shipped from the German manufacturers and once delivered took just two weeks to erect on-site. In operation the turbine produces enough low carbon electricity to power 3,500 homes, generating 10 Gigawatt hours annually and making greenhouse gas emissions savings of 3,516 tonnes CO₂e (based on 2017 BEIS Conversion factors, required for ERDF funding).

This contributes towards meeting the regional target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030, as set out in the West of England Climate & Ecological Strategy & Action Plan 2023 . Reducing carbon emissions also has a measurable social value.  At £67 per tonne, this will result in £5.9 million of added social value over the 25-year lifetime of the turbine.

In June 2023, the Climate Change Committee published its Progress in Reducing Emissions 2023 Report to Parliament. The report urged Government to place the climate crisis at the top of the political agenda, ensure that climate action is at the heart of its leadership and prevent the UK from hesitating whilst the rest of the world take on the opportunity of Net Zero.

The ACE wind turbine project is part of a nationwide energy transition in response to climate change. Increasing energy use from renewable sources, such as wind, will help decarbonise electricity. This will have even more impact as everyday technologies such as cars and heating are converted to electricity.

"In fighting climate change, we are not only averting disaster, we are building a better, cleaner, fairer world. All of this is still within our grasp, but this is a key moment to remake the arguments for faster progress."

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee


The wind turbine, an Enercon EP115, E3, is a new technology platform, which incorporates in its 56m long blades, trailing edge serrations whose technology echoes that of owls’ wings, to reduce the sound emitted.  The turbine is 150m at tip height, with a tower 92m high. The flat back air foils improve lift and reduce sensitivity to blade soiling, making them more efficient. The blades have an internal bend/twist laser measurement system that can provide unique visualisation of the distortion of the blade under load to the supervisory control data acquisition system (SCADA).

The 8m diameter electrical generator is shipped in 3 pieces and assembled on site. It is a low-speed wound field synchronous machine, as distinct from the permanent magnet generators found in virtually all other wind turbines. This improves the grid performance of the machine as the generator excitation system can export reactive power and support power grids when required.  Additionally, the generator employs no neodymium or dysprosium found in rare earth magnets.

Innovative wind turbine blade

Education and skills

ACE CIC intend to develop an Energy Learning Zone alongside the wind turbine. This space will allow schools and community groups to visit the site and experience the turbine close up. This will be the main focus point for the Lawrence Weston Skills Academy Lifelong Learning for ages 8-80. ACE will also work with schools to provide near real-time data as webpages and summary reports from the SCADA system. These screens will help children understand what the turbine is doing, how it makes clean energy from wind and how this reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

ALW is a member of the EnergyRev Skills Advisory Board and working closely with the Bristol Energy Network and education providers, including the University of Bristol, local colleges and schools to ensure there are paid work career pathways within the local community as part of the energy transition towards Net Zero.

School children speaking to adult


The final cost of the wind turbine was approximately £5.5M. ACE CIC was awarded £500,000 capital grant from the Mayoral Combined Authority through its Local Energy Scheme. This funding scheme aims to support innovative renewable energy projects in the West of England that also deliver community benefits. In the first grant round, applicant projects were evaluated against value for money, deliverability, financial viability, local community benefits and promoting low carbon solutions to stakeholders.

The Mayoral Combined Authority received £2.1m funding from the England European Regional Development Fund for climate projects, including for the Local Energy Scheme, as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government was the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helped local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit

Other funders contributed over £400,000 at the early stages, to develop the project, including the Urban Community Energy Fund, Bristol City Council’s Bristol Community Energy Fund (at risk development loan), Power to Change, Bristol Port Community and Bristol & Bath Regional Capital (at risk development loan). Construction funds were secured through loans from Thrive Renewables, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital (BBRC) City Funds, members of the Society of Merchant Venturers, and the £500,000 European Development Fund Grant from the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority.

ACE entered into a 2-year contract with Bristol-based OVO Energy, entering a power purchase agreement (PPA) which is subsidy-free renewable energy.

Group of people by a wind turbine
Image credit: Charles Gamble


The site in which the turbine is located is both a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a RAMSAR wetlands habitat. Therefore, special care was taken to minimise disruption to wildlife habitats during construction and to reinstate previous conditions afterwards. Prior to site work being carried out wildlife habitats were documented by an ecologist, and these were monitored throughout the construction. The site was also cleared outside of bird breeding season to minimise disruption. During construction disruptive piling works were carried out during low tide when birds were out at the estuary.

The turbine site was cleared of vegetation to allow for the construction, and will be reinstated as it was originally. However, there is potential to create biodiversity net gain, as the site will be actively managed to support optimised habitat improvements for biodiversity over the next 10 years as set out in ACE’s Landscape and Nature Conservation Management Plan (LNCMP). Wildlife learning boards will be erected at the site to provide visitors with information about the wildlife habitats present at the site, how they are being managed through the LNCMP and what species they may be lucky enough to spot during their visit to the turbine.

Field in sun


Challenge 1: Poor ground quality

One of the main challenges of constructing the wind turbine at this site was the poor ground quality.

After the geotechnical survey was carried out it was decided that the foundation system had to be designed to cope with very weak ground sitting on top of Murcia mudstones at approximately 20 metres below ground level.

It was necessary to use a piling technique called rotary bored piling and to insert reinforcing cages into each bore before pouring concrete.

Challenge 2: Size of the site

The size of the site proved to be challenging too as the area available was slightly smaller than the minimum suggested by the turbine manufacturer.

After the main components of the turbine, weighing almost 750 tonnes, were shipped to site over three days, the construction of the crane used to assemble the turbine was carried out on that same access road.

Challenge 3: Financing

The financing of the turbine was challenging as the traditional banking finance was not available. Thrive Renewables were able to invest in the project due to their experience in owning and managing renewable energy assets. This leveraged junior debt investment by Bristol and Bath Regional Capital City Funds and private individuals from the Merchant Venturers.

Normally, projects like this are financed with a mixture of equity and debt. The charity Ambition Lawrence Weston represents a disadvantaged community with no expectations of participating in a share issue. There being no equity available, the £500,000 grant from the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority from ERDF funds, together with softer loans from the junior lenders, performed that function to allow the project to proceed.

Interested in renewable energy?

Local Energy Scheme

Round three of the Local Energy Scheme will be opening in January 2024. £723,000 total fund is available, for revenue funding and capital funding to support community renewable energy projects across the West of England region. The Local Energy Scheme now provides grants to renewable energy projects of under 1 megawatt (MW) in the West of England. Full details of the next grant round can be found on the Local Energy Scheme webpage.

Discover the Local Energy Scheme

Net Zero Hub

Any community group wanting additional support to develop its own local renewable energy project can contact the South West Net Zero Hub for early stage advice and guidance. The Net Zero Hub works with public sector and not-for-profit organisations to increase the number, scale and quality of low carbon energy projects across the West of England and wider South West. Funded by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and hosted by the Mayoral Combined Authority, the Hub is currently administering the government’s Community Energy Fund which will help support the development of new projects in the south west region.

Visit the Net Zero Hub

Solar panel installation

Other information

Additional information about developing renewable energy projects can be found on the Community Energy England, Centre for Sustainable Energy, Regen and Bristol Energy Network websites.