THE Co-op has taken a step closer to installing a giant wind turbine in Oxford which could reach 85m (280ft) high — almost four times the height of Carfax Tower.

The Midcounties Co-op has installed a 60m (200ft) test mast to investigate whether it would be feasible to construct an 850kw wind turbine off Botley Road, in Oxford.

The installation of the mast comes just over a year after Oxford City Council asked the Co-op to withdraw its application so planning officers that could investigate whether the tower would spoil views of the city’s famous “dreaming spires”.

The mast is set to remain in place for the next 12 to 18 months to determine whether wind speeds in the area are sufficient to warrant the construction of a 60m mast, fitted with 25m blades, which would be almost 30m (100ft) taller than the nearby Seacourt Tower.

The Co-op believes that it would save more than 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from power stations each year by building the turbine.

It is estimated that the scheme would provide 75 per cent of the energy needs of the Co-op offices, in Botley Road, as well as its Motorworld car dealership on the same site and the Co-op supermarket in Botley’s West Way shopping centre.

Midcounties Co-op energy and environment manager Mike Pickering said: “This is an investigation to see what type of turbine is needed.

“The size and the power of the turbine we go for is dependent on the readings we get.

“Everyone’s confident there will be sufficient wind to warrant a turbine and it would be great if this proved there’s the power to use wind generation in this area.

“The next step in the planning process would be to work with local residents to make sure everyone is happy with a turbine being there.

“The company is confident the turbine won’t negatively affect the city’s skyline.

“It’s away from houses on a location in a field. I actually think it will add to the landscape and show Oxford is serious about renewable energy and the environment.”

The minimum speed needed to get electricity from the turbine is 3m per second (about 6mph) and readings from the mast will determine how tall the turbine mast would need to be.

Jericho and Osney councillor Colin Cook, the city council’s executive member for development said: “The mast won’t spoil any views of the city’s skyline.

“However, if the turbine was something completely outrageous, it wouldn’t get past planning.

“We have got to strike a balance between the need for reducing our carbon footprint and the need to maintain the historic views of Oxford.

“You can get some absolute monster turbines, but I expect they’re going to go for something smaller, although it depends on the year’s worth of data that they get from the mast.”

The Co-op already has solar panels installed on part of the roof of the Motorworld car dealership, which it is estimated offset two tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.