With the fantastic news that demand for fossil gas is now at a five-year low and is being replaced by renewables such as wind energy as the main source of electricity in the UK, we thought now would be a good time to reflect on what we have done and are continuing to do to help tackle the challenges posed by climate change.
Our commitment to tackling the climate crisis is at the heart of everything we do. Through our three divisions: AW Energy, AW Renewables and AW Promotion, we seek to deliver sustainable solutions to the causes of climate change. We’ve achieved a lot since 2007 when we appointed a Sustainability Director to allow us to begin to understand and address these issues.
Working with the Local Authorities, South Beds Friends of the Earth, Arriva and Stuart Michael Associates, we delivered the award winning ‘exemplar transport’ project in Southern Leighton Linslade which commenced in 2010. We had real time bus information installed in every home and created a 20% modal shift to walking, cycling and public transport with the distinctive Dash Direct D1 bus.
We are immensely proud of the amount of renewable electricity that we generate every year. In fact, 2020 proved to be a record year whereby we generated over 14,111 MWh saving 3,290 TCO2 e (tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent). This is just the beginning – our current and upcoming projects will see this figure increase over the coming years. Indeed, by late spring 2022, AW Group will have built generating capacity of 6.5MW, producing well over 15,000 MWh of green energy annually, enough to serve nearly 4,000 existing homes.
So far, we have delivered a number of successful renewable energy projects. In 2010, we received our first planning consents to build and operate the two tallest onshore wind turbines in the UK at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire and Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire which we built in late 2014. We built our third wind turbine Nottinghamshire in 2016 and a fourth will soon be constructed near Leighton Buzzard. Each wind turbine is connected locally and provides renewable electricity to local homes and businesses.
We then branched out further, receiving planning permission in 2020 for a 1.9MW solar farm at Checkley Wood, Heath & Reach, located between Milton Keynes and Dunstable. The intention is to create a major renewable energy centre, utilising the wind and solar power to ease the pressure on the local grid. In fact, we intend to create our very own, very smart grid.
Through our AW Energy division, we also design, build and operate electric vehicle and bus charging stations which are powered by renewable energy. We have secured planning permission for our first EV car charging station at Chamberlains Barn in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, which will open to the public in Summer 2021. We have applied for planning permission for a much larger site on the A5 near Leighton Buzzard, which will include bus charging facilities. This site will be the first, directly linked bus and electric vehicle ultra-rapid charging station in the area, helping the transition to the use of clean electric buses and so decarbonising the Leighton Buzzard public transport network. There are several other sites under consideration, and we are looking forward to developing more of these innovative facilities.
We continue to work with experts to ensure that we are delivering sustainable solutions that will stand the test of time. Working with academics from Warwick University and with Evergreen Smart Power, we are developing solutions that will significantly accelerate the Government’s aspirations for a new zero carbon economy by 2050 and help Central Bedfordshire achieve their stated policy of a net zero carbon economy by 2030.
We are only just getting started. There are many projects in the pipeline, including the development of new, zero carbon communities fit for the 21st Century, providing much-needed new homes and jobs powered by clean energy. A recent example of this is our proposals for a sustainable, zero-carbon scheme in Radley, Oxfordshire, which would deliver an enhanced Country Park, a renewable energy park, electric vehicle charging station and new residential units with high energy-efficiency construction, heating and lighting.
As we look ahead, we are excited about the future and stand ready to do more to tackle climate change and leave a positive legacy.