A Darlington wind farm is set to welcome hundreds of thousands of new residents as it extends its contribution to the local environment.

North East employer Banks Renewables has teamed up with the Darlington Beekeepers Association to place a series of beehives on the site of its Moor House wind farm, which sits to the north east of Barmpton.

An initial four colonies have so far been established on the site, with each one housing up to 50,000 bees during the summer, and around a dozen more will follow in the spring.

The hives are being placed in a new apiary within protective netting which only allows their residents to fly out at a height of eight feet, so they stay well clear of anyone in the immediate area.

They will be used by the Association to help new members learn how to look after bees, to breed new queen bees and to provide a place for people to house their colonies if they don’t have the space to keep them at home.

A small, official unveiling ceremony was held at the site for the project, with Darlington Borough Council leader Heather Scott cutting the ribbon in front of members of the Moor House Wind Farm Liaison Committee, Sadberge Parish Council and Darlington Beekeepers Association.

The project has been supported with a £1,971 grant from the Banks Community Fund linked to the Moor House wind farm, which provides £30,000 every year that local community groups, environmental projects and voluntary organisations can access for projects that benefit the local area.

Founded in 2012, Darlington Beekeepers Association draws most of its 70-plus members from around the local area, but has a number living as far afield as Shotley Bridge and Hartlepool.

Each member undertakes a two-season British Beekeeping Association training course under the guidance of a Master Beekeeper to ensure they have all the knowledge required to care for their charges, including extensive supervised practical sessions.

Richard Bond, committee members at the Darlington Beekeepers Association, says: “While the teaching apiary that we have at the old bowling green in the Denes in the centre of Darlington is very well used, it’s not big enough to allow us to do all the work we want to undertake, so having the new apiary will make a big difference to what we can offer.

“As well as providing our members with the education, training and support needed to get the most from this fascinating hobby, the Association also works to try to inform the wider public about the important role that honey bees and other pollinators plays in our natural environment and what can be done to protect and encourage local populations of pollinators.

“Locally-bred honey bees are generally regarded as more likely to be successful, meaning that the breeding work we’ll undertake at the new apiary should have a positive impact on honey bee populations around the Darlington area.

“The positive impacts on pollination rates and resulting crop yields in areas where hives are established are well documented, and with each bee travelling up to five kilometres away from their homes, we would hope to see wider environmental benefits arising from our presence at Moor House.

“Banks Renewables’ financial and logistical support has given us a great opportunity to further our work and we’re excited about the possibilities that this new location will offer to current and future members.”

Cllr Heather Scott, leader at Darlington Borough Council, adds: “I was pleased to attend the launch of the beehives at Moor House Wind Farm and interested to learn about the husbandry of bee keeping and setting up of new colonies.

“The success of projects like this is important for the future not only for the honey produced, but also for the wider ecological benefit.

“Banks’ support for community activities is much appreciated, and as leader of Darlington Council, I applaud their involvement.”

Darlington Borough Councillor Brian Jones, who chairs the Moor House wind farm community fund committee, says: “I’m delighted to see that Banks Renewables have been able to provide some land for the Darlington Beekeepers Association to site an apiary. It’s yet more evidence of Banks commitment to community involvement.”

Banks Renewables is one of the leading independent owner/operators in the UK’s onshore wind sector and has developed 14 onshore wind farms since 2009, including three within the North East.  It is also pursuing other renewable energy projects throughout the north of England, and Scotland including solar farms and battery storage.

The Moor House wind farm will generate more than £750,000 of local community funding over its 25-year lifespan and has been operational since the start of 2018.

It generates over 36,470 MWh of green electricity every year, which is enough to meet the annual energy requirements of more than 9,350 homes, and by doing so, displaces almost 12,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network per annum.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The Moor House wind farm is continuing to deliver tangible environmental, economic and social benefits to local communities and the wider region, and this is an innovative way to make even more of a positive contribution to the local environment and biodiversity.”

Anyone looking for grant funding from the Moor House wind farm community fund can contact the Banks Community Fund manager at the County Durham Community Foundation on 0191 378 6342 or visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/moorhouse for further information.

Applications from community groups looking to take local action to improve energy efficiency in community buildings, tackle climate change or to improve biodiversity are of particular interest.

Applicants located within the communities at Sadberge, Bishopton, East & West Newbiggin, Bishopton, Little Stainton, Great Stainton, Great Burdon, Barmpton and Brafferton, as well as areas of Whinfield, Harrogate Hill, Beaumont Hill and Coatham Mundeville which are north of the A1150 and east of the A167 are eligible to look for support from the Moor House wind farm community benefits fund.