NINE Cornwall farmers are all set to diversify in a unique venture that will put a new slant on the term wind-farms.

The nine beef and sheep farmers have formed a co-operative company through which they will sell ‘green’ electricity from 18 wind turbines (two per farm) to the national grid.

Several years of thorough research and preparation have paid off for the co-operative which has just been awarded a 42 per cent Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) grant towards the cost of construction.

Ground works will be getting underway shortly and the first six turbines should be operational in the spring, with the rest going live over the summer.

“We are taking a long-term view with this project,” said co-operative chairman Royston Symons, who farms near Bude.

“We are using our natural assets to increase the amount of emission-free power generated in Cornwall, and it will also help our farms to stay profitable.

“Ideally, we would eventually like to sell our electricity to local companies and we are already talking to some.”

The decision to have two 15-metre high turbines with a 20-kilowatt capacity per farm was taken after in-depth fact-finding, financial planning and research. The group was helped to assess the options by the South West Rural Enterprise Gateway (REG) service which provided extensive information and also visits to other farmers, fairs and exhibitions.

Before settling on wind power, Royston and his colleagues investigated other ways of producing green power, including growing crops for fuel and generating hydro-electricity, but settled on wind power because it made best use of their locations and natural resources.

Planning consent was required for the proposal and that required careful consideration relating to positioning the turbines – keeping visual impact from public places to a minimum and ensuring the turbines would not interfere with microwave communications networks, such as those used by the emergency services. As we will have 18 turbines on different sites over our nine farms, that took quite a bit of working out,” said Royston.

“Now our plans are attracting quite a lot of positive interest. We’re already getting calls from other farmers, so I expect that we are leading the way with this project.”