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April 4, 2012

Neilston blazes a trail


Any community that has set out to capture a share of the cash bonanza otherwise known as renewable energy would probably agree that it’s not for the faint hearted – and those who stay the course will almost certainly have the scars to prove it. But the rewards are fantastic, with the potential to transform the future of those communities who succeed.  Hopefully the triumph of communities like Neilston will inspire many others.




Construction to Begin at Neilston Community Windfarm

With final stages of funding in place, construction work is due to start at a £15 million Community Windfarm in Neilston, East Renfrewshire by the end of the month. The four turbine, ten megawatt capacity windfarm is set to earn the Neilston community almost £10million over the next 25 years.  These funds will go a long way towards creating a sustainable and successful future for Neilston. 

Construction of the £15million windfarm has been part funded through a £300,000 investment from Social Investment Scotland, Scotland’s leading alternative funder to the third sector. The trust has also secured funding from Big Issue Invest, CAF Venturesome, West of Scotland Loan Fund and the Scottish Government.

This unique project, a joint venture between Neilston Development Trust and Carbon Free Developments Limited, a small commercial windfarm developer, is the first of its kind in Scotland.  Four large turbines with a total maximum output of 10MW, will be constructed on the site of the old Drumgrain landfill on the Kingston Road. (10MW is about twice Neilston’s total consumption of electricity per year). The electricity goes into the grid in the normal way, contributing to Scotland’s national targets for green energy, and Neilston shares in the profits from the energy sold. 

 For some time, Neilston Development Trust has held an ambition to become involved in community renewables.  The Trust was approached by Carbon Free in 2009 and was quick to seize the opportunity on offer. 

 Neilston’s Town Charter lists more than forty community projects, which will be the focus for the income generated. Established in 2009, the Charter was stimulated by the Trust and is the product of collaboration between local people, council and other agencies with the aim of setting out a vision for a sustainable and prosperous community spanning the next 20 years.  

 Within this list of projects, the Trust has identified three for local discussion and development: the creation of attractive social spaces that are pivotal in the daily life of the town; the development of business plans to create new industries and jobs and the creation of a free Wi-Fi cloud allowing wider access to the Internet. 

 Andrew Jones, chair of Neilston Community Trust, said:  ““We could not be more excited for construction to begin on the Neilston Community Windfarm. It means that we are one significant step closer to achieving a dream that we have all worked so hard for over the last few years. 

 “This will be the first windfarm in Scotland to be developed by a commercial company and a community in a Limited Liability Partnership. Not only will it make an incredible difference to the future of our community, but it will also go some way towards achieving the Scottish Government’s target of 500 megawatts of community and locally-owned renewable energy by 2020.

“We are at a crucial point of the Trust’s development, moving from a reliance on volunteer capacity towards sustainability as a well founded social enterprise, loyal to our vision.”

 Alastair Davis, chief executive of Social Investment Scotland, said:  “With its broad range of ambitious projects aimed at transforming the lives of the local community, Neilston Development Trust has grown to become one of the most respected social enterprises in the UK. The creation of an urban windfarm is truly visionary in its objective of both securing the future of Neilston whilst contributing towards the Government’s overall goals for renewable energy. We are delighted to be working with the team at the Trust and look forward to helping them deliver the project.”

 Energy Minster, Fergus Ewing, said:  “The Scottish Government is committed to helping communities enjoy the social and financial benefits of developing their own renewable energy.

 “I am delighted we have been able to support the Neilston community in taking this step towards harnessing their wind resources. 

“This loan is in effect a pilot loan from a new fund we will be offering next year to support more communities across Scotland receive access to finance at the post-planning stage.

“I am grateful to Social Investment Scotland for providing the vehicle for that support to Neilston, and I look forward to seeing the local community reap the considerable benefits which will surely flow in the years to come.”