August 15, 2012
Scaling up the benefits
When we think about communities developing renewable energy projects we tend to envisage communities located in remote rural Scotland. This is a mind set that needs to be challenged. What’s to stop inner city communities enjoying the same financial rewards by negotiating joint ventures with rural partners. Furthermore why aren’t other bits of the third sector – intermediaries and networks – doing likewise. Actually, it may just have started.
A unique joint venture between two Scottish charities that has been in development for the past few years has received a massive boost. Planning permission has been granted by Scottish Borders Council for the jointly owned Hoprigshiels community wind farm. The income generated from this project will be crucial to the futures of both charities – Community Energy Scotland in its work to support communities throughout Scotland, helping them share in the benefits to be gained from renewable energy, and Berwickshire Housing Association in its mission to provide much needed affordable rented housing across the county.
The modest 3 turbine project is Scotland’s first joint venture project between two charities: Community Energy Scotland and Berwickshire Housing Association, the majority partner. The green electricity generated by the turbines will be sold to the national grid and profit will be dispersed between the two organisations to support their charitable aims.
Berwickshire Housing Association will use their share to build up to 500 low-cost affordable homes in Berewickshire. Community Energy Scotland’s share will help fund its national support service to enable communities to develop renewable energy projects.
Helen Forsyth, Chief Executive of the Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA) commented, “Without a doubt, Hoprigshiels Community Wind Farm is the single most important development ever proposed by BHA. This will benefit not only those in housing need today, but households and communities for generations to come. A remarkable legacy for a modest three turbine wind farm.”
On average for every home BHA has available to let, the Association receives 50 applications. At a time of reduced public expenditure and growing demand for affordable housing, Hoprigshiels Community Wind Farm provides BHA with the potential to develop much needed new housing, which otherwise would not be built.
Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive of Community Energy Scotland said, ‘Scottish Borders Council planning committee should be congratulated in taking this progressive step. The benefits from this relatively small scheme will all be recycled to benefit communities locally and nationally. No shareholders and no individual profits will be involved. The main beneficiaries are Scottish charities dedicated to community aims and the local community through the community benefit package.’
Aside from the funds raised to be used by BHA and Community Energy Scotland for their charitable purposes, a community fund of over £35,000 per year will be provided in support of community activity within the vicinity of the development.
BHA and their partners, Community Energy Scotland are already putting together the programme of works to take the project to completion. “We’ve a way to go yet” said Helen Forsyth “but this is the most significant milestone in the project to date. Hopefully in eighteen months time the blades at Hoprigshiels will be turning, with every turn earning money for Berwickshire. That’s what makes our project unique” .