A period of testing will follow before 22 turbine installation is fully operational this autumn

THE last of 22 wind turbines at Fullabrook Down was scheduled to be erected at the weekend and contractors report the wind farm will be fully operational by mid October.

For a time the complex near West Down will become the largest onshore wind farm in England and in the course of a year is expected to generate enough electricity to power 30,000 domestic homes – almost three quarters of the homes in North Devon.

In the weeks ahead a few of the wind turbines will be seen working as installers Vestas test each 110 metre turbine and its connections to the National Grid prior to full scale operation this autumn.

The project has proved controversial and the road to completion has not been smooth – with planning permission granted in 2007, followed by a public enquiry.

There was then a High Court challenge to the development before owners Devon Wind Power were acquired by Irish company ESB International.

Along with Vestas, the Sisk Group and Gael Tech/KTL have been the major contactors working on the project.

Developers say it will save 180,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, yet only 38 properties in the area will be within 530-800 metres of a turbine.

Charles St George, of communications company PPS, said the project was a week or two ahead of schedule and as the testing phase progressed the land would be reinstated for farming use and the construction buildings dismantled.

“The connections to the National Grid have already been laid,” he said.

“The site sub station is at Knowlewater Bridge, which converts the electricity and sends it down to the Barnstaple sub station before feeding into the grid.”

Each turbine has a three megawatt capacity and Mr St George said the “conservative estimate” of powering 30,000 homes took into account the fact the wind does not blow constantly.

“There has been a lot of positive feedback, with many people really interested in what is going on, driving by to park and take photographs,” he added.

The Fullabrook Wind Farm Community Interest Company has been set up to administer a Community Fund established through grants paid by the owner of the site – regeneration projects across the district can apply for slices of an initial £1 million lump sum, followed by annual payments of £100,000.

Construction of a second ESB owned wind farm has just begun across the water in South Wales and both projects are expected to be serviced from a Bristol base.

A Fullabrook Wind Farm Exhibition is being held at the Braunton Countryside Centre in Caen Street up until September 3.