The Winds of Change
By Cristina Parry
Find out more about the only community owned windfarm in the South of England and the man whose vision made it a reality.
Adam Twine is a third generation farmer and lives in the same 250 year old Oxfordshire farm house that his family has lived in since the 1930's.
However there is a little twist in the tale – Adam runs a community owned wind farm – the first in this part of England. The Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative in the Vale of White Horse came into being in May 2008 after many years of jumping through hoops and searching for investors.
Adam says he probably would not have been a farmer at all had it not been a family tradition: “My dad had been ill and then died and we lived in the farmhouse that was owned by the National Trust. They offered me the tenancy and I’d come back from college the year before so it was either a get in or get out, and getting in seemed the right thing to do.”
The first turbine goes up
Adam feels a sense of responsibility for the land he has the task of keeping and his environmental commitment is something he feels passionately about. He was a member of the Ecology party in the early Eighties and was involved in the anti-nuclear protests so he had a strong interest in energy issues: “Around the time of my first child being born I was thinking about how I could integrate some of my values into my work which had been quite separate until then. I started looking at the recourses we had on the farm, and we have an old airfield, a wide open space, lots of wind, and thought about a wind farm and it started from there.”
It has been a labour of love and took about 16 years to get it from idea to reality. During that period there were many times Adam felt it might fail and found himself in a very lonely place dealing with a very big project. “In our third planning application there were enough local people opposed to it that we thought they could stop the whole project. I think there was about 70 letters of opposition, and I thought ‘Gosh, I’m really on my own with this.’” But support for the project also grew and 2,400 investors later they are now capable of generating enough ‘green’ electricity to run more than 2,500 homes.
After 25 years, the job he 'fell into' has been his life. He studied agriculture at college and began to get interested in organic farming. 10 years into his tenancy he converted the family farm. “A farm is like a canvas and I guess what I’ve done is paint lots of things on it and that is a real privilege and opportunity.”
The Windpower Over Westmill group
Adam really has used his land to its greatest extent, even starting a gardening, rural craft skills and cookery project for people with mental health issues. Root and Branch has been running now for 5 years. Adam has stepped back from the day to day running but is still a very interested and supportive trustee. Getting the community working together and being part of that community is obviously at the core of Adam’s being. “I suppose one of my commitments is to peace building in the wider sense of the word, and where you start, where you live, your family, your community is part of that.”
He has just returned from a six week trip to Palestine, partly to do some solidarity work with Palestinians but also to see firsthand how people cope with living in a conflict situation, what initiatives are working and how people respond to those peace building initiatives.
Adam Twine is a man who puts his money where his mouth is and lives by his beliefs. From organic and wind farming to world peace; he has planted the seed and will use all his many skills to make it grow. It is his legacy to his own children and one whose roots he hopes will extend far and wide.
last updated: 29/05/2009 at 16:58
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