05 June 2019
Sponsored by Temple Group
*** WINNER *** New Rides Farm - Renewable Energy and Habitat Creation Scheme - submitted by Energiekontor UK
The New Rides Farm project was delivered on low quality agricultural land on the Isle of Sheppey. It required extensive planning and assessment to install significant renewable energy infrastructure, whilst leaving an enhanced site for generations to come. The project team believed that in order to demonstrate sustainability (not just promises) a project must show evidence of success and benefit. Following the project's completion, the island is now leading the green charge with all of Sheppey’s domestic power needs met by renewable energy – a significant achievement, and the project further benefits the area through provision of a substantial area of new wildlife habitat.
The Borough of Swale in Kent is vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise, flood risk, erosion and habitat fragmentation caused by climate change. Meeting the challenge of climate change is most prevalent on the Isle of Sheppey, where much of the island is low-lying marshland with large parts of its existing urban areas at or below sea level. Swale Borough Council’s 2017 Local Plan(1) highlights that the sustainable management of Sheppey is critical so that these crucial wetland habitats can continue to be created in the face of the long-term changes that threaten them.
The newly created 24ha wet grassland is already showing promising results (from ongoing monitoring) providing additional habitat to complement the nearby Swale wetland (designated as a Ramsar wetland, Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and adjacent Great Bells Farm (RSPB nature reserve). Low-quality agriculture land has now been enhanced with wet grassland and other biodiversity measures - with circa £0.75 Million of social benefits over the project lifetime - as well as delivering for investors and the local employment market. The installed turbines are making a positive contribution to the environment and future generations, by reducing carbon emissions and helping prevent dangerous climate change.
Social - the project is committed to contributing proceeds from the electricity generated to the Energiekontor founded ‘Eastchurch Community Fund', which will continue to enhance the local area. Energiekontor will contribute circa £0.75 Million to projects over the lifetime of the project.
Environment - over £100,000 worth of biodiversity enhancement works have been delivered providing habitat for important bird species with vulnerable populations. 24 hectares of wet grassland has been created, contributing to Swale Borough Council and UK Biodiversity Action Plans to increase green infrastructure. Habitat creation, in turn, benefits birds of the Swale SPA and Great Bells Farm RSPB reserve, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and bats in due course, as the habitat matures. The project allows for management of this rare habitat type which would otherwise be difficult to secure. It is a demonstrable example of how renewable energy and biodiversity can achieve mutual benefit.
Economics - during the construction phase, £1.6m of materials and labour were sourced within 35 miles of the site. 30 people worked at the site at the peak of construction, with the local economy benefiting through pay packets being reinvested into the area. Now operational, all of Sheppey’s domestic power needs are met by renewable energy with the turbines and infrastructure supporting jobs for local people involved in the maintenance and management activity. The electricity generated from the turbines will displace the equivalent of 11,346 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year from conventional forms of electricity generation.
Transferability and Information Sharing – New Rides Farm followed a clear development procedure through assessment, planning and construction stages and as such is repeatable by others. In addition, the project will continue to monitor the number and distribution of key ornithological interests on the site. A biodiversity steering group has been established and will meet annually to discuss the monitoring and opportunities to further enhance wildlife interests on the site. The monitoring data will be published to the Local Planning Authority and as such is available for both developers and academics to view and utilise in future projects.
New Rides Farm is delivering economic, social and environmental objectives. The development has created a legacy for future generations to benefit from and provides a template for combating climate change and developing energy infrastructure on island sites in the UK.
For more details:
Visit Energiekontor UK
The SECBE 2019 Sustainability Award is sponsored by Temple Group.