Switch-on for couple's wind turbine

CELIA WIGG The crowning glory of Christian and Jo Mountney's new environmentally-friendly home is a 60ft-tall wind turbine that will generate enough power for their own needs and have some spare for the National Grid.

CELIA WIGG

It harnesses the power of the sun, rain and even soaks up heat from the earth.

But the crowning glory of Christian and Jo Mountney's new environmentally-friendly home is a 60ft-tall wind turbine that will generate enough power for their own needs and have some spare for the National Grid.

On Saturday, green-minded villagers in Kenninghall, near Diss, joined the Mountneys for the grand switch-on of their turbine.

The couple was involved in running an environmental centre and vegetarian café in Walthamstow, east London, before uprooting to south Norfolk three years ago.

In Kenninghall, they not only found a dilapidated barn to convert but a community happy to embrace environmentally-friendly thinking.

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For the village near Diss is a trailblazer when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.

The parish council was the first in the county to sign up to CRed - an ambitious scheme to cut carbon emissions - in spring 2004; villagers have planted thousands of trees to create a woodland that has the future potential to offset 217 tonnes of carbon a year; and there are plans for a new village hall with energy-saving ideas such as photovoltaic panels and high levels of insulation.

The Mountneys have spent the past two years converting their barn into an eco-friendly home, and doing the majority of the work themselves.

It has a geothermal system that uses warmth from the soil to power under-floor heating and hot water, a rainwater collection system to flush the toilets, low-energy light bulbs, and the hi-tech turbine capable of producing up to 600 volts.

"We always wanted to build our own home, and I fancied a wind turbine. We have probably put it in sooner than we thought, I suppose because financially it stacks up," explained Mr Mountney, 39, who is a building surveyor by profession.

"It cost just over £18,000, and we had to spend another £1,000 putting in the foundations. You get a £5,000 grant from the government which is very good, and you are looking at between eight-10 years payback depending on how much wind you get.

"We had to get planning permission for the turbine and had absolutely no problems at all. The parish council was very supportive and we've found the village generally to be a very green-minded community. There's a lot of people who are very interested in this project."

The couple's home is at the end of a quarter-of-a-mile drive off Banham Road, on the outskirts of the village, and their nearest neighbours, Lucy and Pip Whittle, were very much in favour of the turbine.

Mrs Whittle was prime mover in Kenninghall's woodland scheme, and green issues are close to her heart.

Debbie Henderson, manager of the village store, said: "I think it's very good for the environment."

Shop assistant Karen Riseborough added: "I think wind turbines are a good idea. I live in Banham and we were looking at getting one of the smaller ones ourselves."

Mr Mountney added: "We knew we wanted to move out of London about five years ago, started looking for the right place, and found it.

"The barn is unusual because it's flint rather than timber-framed and it was very dilapidated - I think on the point of collapse. We are both quite good at visualising and seeing the positive in things and we have had friends up to help us.

"But we have done most of the conversion ourselves and have virtually given up our lives to do it."