If a single community-owned turbine was included in a major new commercial wind farm development near Ashkirk it could generate profits of around £100,000 a year for Hawick and district.
The idea of a “buy-in” to the private venture has already received support from senior planning officials at Scottish Borders Council, according to Frances Ryan, secretary of the Greener Hawick group which is currently consulting on the proposal.
It comes two months after Airtricity was granted planning consent to build 10 giant turbines – generating enough electricity to power 13,000 homes and joining the National Grid at Hawick – at scenic Langhope Rig.
SBC had, along with 370 objectors, opposed the £25million project as an unacceptable blot on the landscape and last year refused to give it planning permission.
However, in May a Scottish Government reporter upheld Airtricity’s appeal and the firm has since given a commitment to discuss giving cash benefits to those communities, including Roberton, most affected by the development.
At the the current going rate of £2,000 per kilowatt generated, that would bring in just £46,000 a year.
But Greener Hawick, which was set up last year and is now full constituted, believes that is less than half the revenue a community buy-in could yield.
This week, Mrs Ryan contacted members of the Hawick Group – set up to promote and market the town – along with community councillors for a reaction.
“It is necessary to move fast as the developers are in the final stages of planning and negotiation,” said Mrs Ryan.
The proposal received immediate support from Group chairman Rory Bannerman.
“This would be good for the town and good for the rest of the planet,” said Mr Bannerman.
“The beauty of this idea is it would require no extra planning permission, while the infrustructure will already be in place. I commend the Greener Hawick group and hope townsfolk will get behind them.”
Mrs Ryan agreed. “A buy-in to the Langhope Rig project would not be difficult to achieve and several communities in Scotland have done something similar.
“Help, expertise and money are readily available. Based on preliminary estimates, even when the cost of repaying the turbine over 10 years is taken into account, we reckon net revenue could be at least £100,000.”
She said Greener Hawick was happy to talk to local groups about the proposal.
“We think this is an idea worth pursuing as the wind farm is going to be there anyway.”
But Richard Hoolahan, who objected to the Airtricity plans, disagreed.
“It continues to amaze me in this country that when the public are clearly against something, ranging from the war in Iraq to the construction of a wind farm that can be built elsewhere, it does not matter,” said Mr Hoolahan.
“By getting involved in the profit from this wind farm, the Hawick community would simply be saying: ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’.
“There are several ways to bring money into the community and this would be a rather shameless way in my opinion.”
Kevin Ferguson, chairman of Hawick Community Council, said his council had not objected to the Langhope Rig project and was generally in favour of wind power.
“If our support for a community-owned turbine is sought, we will consider it at our regular meeting on September 9 at which the public can attend,” he added.
A spokesperson for Airtricity said the company was unaware of the community turbine suggestion.
Mrs Ryan confirmed the views of the firm had not been sought. “We thought it only right to sound out local opinion before making a formal approach,” she explained.
By Andrew Keddie
19 July 2008
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