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August 24, 2011

Spread the jam more widely

Figures published by environmental pressure group, Renewable Energy Foundation, highlight the vast rental incomes being earned by private landowners from wind farms courtesy of the current levels of public subsidy.  While no one can blame them for taking advantage of a legitimate opportunity, it’s frustrating that opportunities for communities to benefit have been so limited to date. One private developer has come up with an approach that might just unlock some of this potential wealth

Dominic Jeff, Scotland on Sunday

Spread the jam more widely

By Dominic Jeff, Scotland on Sunday, 21 August 2011

GLASGOW energy firm EML Group is seeking to capitalise on the boom in community wind projects across Scotland with a part-ownership scheme that offers towns and villages a slice of the profits from turbines in their area. The company is offering community groups access to 100 per cent finance to take a share in small wind turbine arrays it plans to build. It says this allows communities to take part in energy projects without any risk or capital outlay.

EML estimates that trusts set up to take part in a project will receive an annual windfall of up to £150,000 for the first 15 years of the 25-year project, with income increasing thereafter. 

One village, Thornhill in Stirlingshire, has already signed up, and EML claims a further ten communities could follow suit.

The Thornhill development would consist of four 500-kilowatt turbines with ownership split between the landowner, EML, external investors and Thornhill Community Trust.

The scheme is currently seeking planning permission – something which is likely to prove less of an obstacle with support from the local population.

Community Energy Scotland, a charity that supports renewable energy projects developed by local groups, promotes a 100 per cent model of ownership by towns and villages, but operations manager

Rona Mackay said energy companies were increasingly offering a stake in their wind farms.
She said schemes with community involvement typically attracted much less opposition than those which only involved a commercial company based outside the area.

She said: “Communities have been saying ‘If it’s going to be on our doorstep, we want a cut of it. A lot of developers see the advantage of local buy-ins, because there are skills and knowledge that can be tapped into.”

Mackay said that in areas with a strong wind resource, such as the Western Isles, it was relatively easy for groups to get 100 per cent finance for the projects, as wind turbines generated a dependable income.  She said about 150 such schemes were in existence across Scotland, although most were still at a planning stage.

Steve Moore, a renewable energy expert with Triodos Bank, said that many wind energy companies were introducing “good neighbour policies” in response to demand from planners that communities see some benefits from developments.