May 21, 2014
Where there’s a will
Community ownership of renewable energy projects remains a tiny fraction of the overall market. Where it’s occurred the benefits are so manifestly obvious that it’s really hard to fathom why it has been allowed to remain such a relatively marginal activity. Access to land is obviously one barrier and Scotland’s concentrated pattern of land ownership clearly doesn’t help. It’s doubly difficult if you happen to be an urban community with aspirations to own a wind farm. Unless that is, you combine dogged persistence with a bit of lateral thinking.
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Long standing supporters of Greener Leith will remember that we won a UK wide funding competition, in partnership with PEDAL, to help us build a community owned wind turbine at Seafield.
Although Scottish Water subsequently pulled out of the project, preventing us from building a turbine at Seafield, we did not give up, and are now pleased to be able to confirm that we’ve secured a new site for the community turbine project – four kilometres south west of Inverness.
The new agreement follows a year of complex negotiations. The land deal gives us exclusive rights to conduct studies at the site and build two wind turbines of up to 800KWp capacity each. To take the project forwards we have established a joint venture company which is majority owned by PEDAL and Greener Leith. Consultants to the project, SCENE, own a minority (five percent) stake.
In addition, planning permission has recently been granted to install a met mast on the site to measure the wind resource, which will happen in the next month or so.
The next step is to meet with the communities near to the site. We hope local non-profit groups will become partners in the project too, and are offering them the chance to invest in, and become part owners of it. We want this to be a project that brings real environmental and financial benefits, not just to our own communities, but to those where the turbines will be located.
We’ve already begun this process and will be presenting on the project at Strathnairn Community Council’s meeting on 26th May.
The aim is to submit a full planning application to Highland Council sometime in August. If it gets planning permission, the project could generate an estimated £7m surplus over the twenty year lifespan of the project, to be distributed between the community groups who invest in the project – including Greener Leith.
A spokesperson for the project said: “Signing a land deal is a huge milestone for this project. Greener Leith and PEDAL volunteers have worked for years on this project and both organisations remain firmly committed to community-owned renewable energy. Our attention is now focussed on identifying potential non-profit community partners local to the site who we can work with to help us take the project forwards and share in the subsequent benefits.
“Although a lot still needs to happen before we can be certain the project will go ahead, we hope to put in a full planning application later in the year, with a view to starting construction on site in 2015. We’d like to thank all the people who have got behind the project, especially our key funders, for their ongoing support.”
You can find out more about the project at the specially set-up website athttp://communityturbines.wordpress.com