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May 7, 2008

Community cashes in its woodchips

A community group in Argyll has found a new way to exploit renewable energy for community benefit. Linking forestry to aquaculture, this is thought to be a first in Scotland. The group, Here We Are, has formed a new company which will supply woodchip fuel to local biomass boilers. The new company, Our Power, will initially supply the biomass needs of a local fish hatchery


A unique project in Argyll that links forestry and aquaculture is demonstrating how small rural communities can benefit from renewable energy projects .

Thought to be the first of its kind in Scotland, the project was the idea of local community group, Here We Are (HWA) and is the only community owned fuel supply projects to win funding from the Scottish Biomass Support Scheme (SBSS) delivered by Forestry Commission Scotland.

The group’s specially formed energy company, ‘Our Power’ supplies woodfuel for a biomass boiler recently installed at local salmon hatchery Lakeland Smolts. The boiler is used to maintain water temperatures at a level that creates the best growing conditions for the smolts.

Speaking at the launch today (Friday 2 May), Bob McIntosh, Director of Forestry Commission Scotland, said:

“Woodfuel and biomass energy systems are highly sustainable and are increasingly popular across the country. They offer communities and businesses opportunities to use local resources to create new markets and new jobs that will strengthen rural and local economies.

“It is a fast developing industry and this innovative project illustrates to communities – and to the forestry sector – the variety of potential applications for woodfuel. Promoting woodfuel is a big part of the Commission’s work and we are always happy to engage with communities to help them develop ideas.”

HWA began to think about the potential of renewable energy schemes as a source of income and employment for the local community after researching and staging an exhibition on the history of local power generation.

After investigating several possibilities, the preferred option was to develop a wood chipping plant in conjunction with a biomass boiler system at the local hatchery, Lakeland Smolts. SBSS funding helped the group to establish its own power company – Our Power – to run the biomass wood chipping business.

Christina Noble, HWA project director, said:

“It had to be ‘Our Power’ because as well as providing power, the project has also empowered us. The project has had a very positive impact on the community and we hope it will encourage other communities to think big and consider their own local energy projects.

“The project is earning income that will benefit the community, it has created 1.5 jobs and has helped sustain 15 more.

“Our wood chipping business now also counts the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park HQ in Balloch as a customer. I think we have shown that local skills and resources can be used to meet the challenges presented to small communities by the 21st century.”

For more information about HWA or Our Power, contact Lorna Watt on 01499 600350 or visit