Scottish Island Builds Community Wind Farm

It’s been said that good fences make good neighbors, but a wind farm can bring a community together. The residents of Gigha, an island off the coast of Scotland, are going to build the country’s first community-owned wind farm to boost the regeneration capability of the island.

Gigha, Scotland – June, 28 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The £400,000 project consists of three second-hand 225 kW turbines supplied by Vestas manufacturing’s wind farm site at Cumbria. Gigha Renewable Energy, which is being set up by the Island of Gigha Heritage Trust (IGHT), will run the farm. IGHT owns the majority of land and assets on the island after its community buy-out in 2002. The trust is a limited company with charitable status, and uses the same model to operate a hotel and other commercial activities for the benefit of the island. Lewis Macdonald, who is the executive deputy minister for Enterprise and Life Long Learning, said “This reinforces our message that renewable energy is a practical and sustainable means of meeting energy needs across Scotland’s communities. I wish the project and the trust every success.” Once commissioned, the wind farm is expected to produce a net annual income for the IGHT rising from £40,000 initially to £81,000. Electricity generated on Gigha will be sold to a registered power supply company and will be eligible for Renewable Obligations Certificates, which will create additional income. Renewable Obligations Certificates are issued as a result of the power generated by wind turbines and are traded in an artificial market, which was created by UK Government regulation. The regulation creates a demand for these certificates at a market price above the buy-out price determined by the Government. Sales of electricity from the three wind turbines on the island should at least pay for their own upkeep. Any extra revenue will help fund other development projects on the island. The wind farm will be a prototype scheme for the community energy company being formed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to ensure communities throughout its area gain direct financial benefit from renewable energy generation. HIE chairman James Hunter said: “This is a highly significant step for us that underlines our determination to capture the benefits of the renewable energy generation sector for communities throughout the Highlands and Islands,” HIE Chairman James Hunter said. “Achieving a national first in a sector which has such huge potential for Scotland is absolutely in keeping with the remarkable renaissance that has occurred on Gigha in the short time since the community achieved ownership of the island. Where Gigha is leading, I hope many more communities will quickly follow.” The project is being backed with an £82,000 grant from the Scottish Executive’s Scottish Community and Household Renewables Initiative, which is administered by HIE. This is enterprise network’s first shareholding in a community-owned company, and they are expected to purchase £80,000 of shares. IGHT intends to buy back the shares with revenue generated from the wind farm over the next five years. IGHT has secured a £148,000 loan from Social Investment Scotland and £50,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Fresh Futures scheme. The trust will purchase £40,000 of equity from its own reserves. The development has been approved by Argyll and Bute Council planning department and no objections have been raised by Scottish Natural Heritage. A quote for connection to the grid has been requested from Scottish and Southern Energy and is due in mid July. It is hoped the wind farm will be operational by October.
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