Monday, 19 March 2007

Urban wind turbine for Kings Norton

I was really pleased to go to Primrose Hill Primary School in Kings Norton last Thursday where they unveiled their new very fancy wind turbine.

Primrose Hill School is within the Three Estates area of Kings Norton and its intake generally goes not have a privileged intake, although to go that school, I reckon the school makes up for it. I would have loved to have spent my primary school days there.

This is no toy wind turbine - this is pretty big: 50 feet tall (15 metres in new money?) and 8 foot blades (2.5 metres) in length. It is enough to provide a third of all the school's energy needs and is connected to the national grid so no electricity generated at night, for example, is lost.

What's so impressive though is not that some Government officer went to the school and told them they want to put a turbine there. It was the School's own staff, Head Teacher and Chair of Governors (Birmingham Friends of the Earth's own Nigel Baker) who pushed this forward. With the help of Phil Beardmore, Mandy Ross and others from the Birmingham Sustainable Energy Partnership, Primrose Hill got a 50% grant from the Government. This left some serious fundraising to do at the school. Despite not being in a wealthy area, the school managed it. All credit to them.

On the launch day itself, teacher Eleanor Hoad organised a fantastic energy bazaar with various organisations coming along and lots of interactive activities set up to capture children's imagingation and teach them about the environment at the same time. To be honest, our stall, manned by myself, was pretty lost when other people had fancy light boxes, free chocolate, paddling pools and bikes to power machines. It was still worthwhile though and engaged people in an area we generally don't go to with street stalls. The bazaar glamourised renewable energy as it should be.

Local MP Lynne Jones, who has often supported Birmingham FoE in the past, gave a great speech about the importance of developing energy efficient schools as they are the foundations of the future and renewable energy is an essential part of that! She urged the school to go further and become carbon neutral. It just happens that the school is already looking into getting solar photovoltaics!

This school has cut carbon emissions by around 33% in one year. Suddenly makes Friends of the Earth's "Big Ask" for 3% cuts in emissions per year on a national basis seem very possible!

All credit has to go to Primrose Hill for their initiative, leadership and creating such a prominent and positive symbol that the Three Estates area and school children can be proud of.

Chris Williams

1 comment:

robert hewitt said...

Just to give an update and fill in a few gaps on the account of this project I should mention that the scheme was made possible by the partnership between Birmingham City Council (Arts Section) and the school and other local agencies and individuals. BCC (Arts) have been working in the area for a number of years initiating projects that engage people with their environment in a range of unexpected ways.

We had a very positive response to a large scale, temporary lighting project when we lit up the four tower blocks on Shannon Rd in 2005. This led us to think about a renewably powered permanent lighting feature mounted on a building locally, so when we heard Primrose Hill Community School were struggling to find the match funding to realise their plans for a wind turbine a light bulb went on!

We were able to bring in the partnership funding needed to make this scheme viable and we worked with the partners to manage and deliver the scheme - which is a first for the city. Rather than the benefit simply being absorbed into the school's budget it was felt important to ensure the wind power was used to create something new and additional. The income generated by the turbine will be used to fund future arts, environmental and science based extra-curricular projects at the school. It will of course also be creating units of green power for the national grid for years to come.

A small portion of the power will be used to run an energy efficient (LED’s), lighting-based artwork at the school. This will demonstrate the potential to transform wind energy into creativity and knowledge. We hope it will also very visibility put renewable energy on the agenda for the proposed large-scale redevelopment of the area. The artwork resides in a combination of the turbine, the lighting feature and the legacy of project funding for creative projects. When fully realised it is hoped it will become a symbol of sustainability for the 3 Estates - a national first (we believe?) and a unique contribution to local neighbourhood distinctiveness.

Arts and Environment Officer
Development and Culture (Arts)