PLANS are being drawn up to build multiple giant wind turbines across Southampton and a shortlist of potential sites has already been selected, writes Peter Law.

As revealed by the Daily Echo last December, Southampton City Council has invited a green developer to scour the city for suitable locations for an enormous 125-metre turbine.

Ten windy sites have since been earmarked following screening of all the council's land assets and preliminary surveys of the most promising spots.

It emerged this week that experts are now investigating how many of the £2m turbines - which are more than double the height of the Civic Centre clock tower - could be built on each site.

The developers told the Daily Echo they believe up to three giant turbines could be built in Southampton - enough to power 3,300 homes a year.

Exactly the same scheme has seen plans to build six giant turbines in Reading and four more in Oxford unveiled in the past month.

The news comes just days after the council announced a separate plan to build about 20 medium-sized turbines on commercial and industrial sites.

The first has been earmarked for the Woolston riverside site and would incorporate a design reflecting the Spitfire heritage of the city, with blades made to look like the iconic aircraft's propellers.

The 15-metre turbines would generate a maximum electricity output for 22 homes a year in high winds, while each giant turbine would power up to 1,100 homes.

The organisation behind the giant turbine scheme, the Partnership for Renewables (PfR), which is a part of the Carbon Trust, will cover the entire construction bill.

The organisation will build the turbines, rent the land off the council and sell electricity back to the council at a reduced rate or feed it into the national grid to raise cash for council coffers.

Each mast would be 80 metres high. Each would generate two to three megawatts of power a year.

As this electricity would be generated without burning fossil fuels, each turbine could save more than 2,200 tonnes of CO2 annually.

The size of the turbines being considered is similar in scale to the Green Park turbine, which is currently spinning near the M4 in Reading.

A commercial-scale turbine could be erected in Southampton as early as 2011, or within a year of receiving the go-ahead from planners.

Land near Southampton Airport has been ruled out because of the potential to interfere with flight paths, as have the busy docks and scenic Southampton Common.

PfR chief executive Stephen Ainger said the organisation was still six months away from naming its preferred sites.

"After the initial study work the number of sites worthy of individual investigation came to about ten. This figure continues to reduce as more detailed work is carried out and we work to pinpoint the best sites," he said.

"The results of our work so far suggest that there will be an opportunity to locate one to three turbines in the Southampton area.

"It is unlikely that a planning application will be submitted for another two years, and we will work to ensure that the community is central to the development process."

PfR is aiming to produce 500 megawatts of renewable energy - equivalent to 230,000 houses - at zero carbon cost to the country's environment.

The scheme received a major boost this week when it was announced the bank HSBC had committed £18m to buy 49 per cent of PfR and cover the cost of future developments.