A community wind turbine bid which could generate £5million for Thornhill could end up embroiled in concerns about an increase number of turbine proposals in and around the area.
The 640-strong village is involved in a venture which is said to potentially provide locals with lower electricity bills for up to 25 years as well as delivering income for a range of potential community projects including a cafe, cinemaclub, all-weather sports pitch and education bursaries for local students.
The community is seeking planning consent for a 500kw turbine that would be located at the Braes of Boquhapple farm, overlooking the village. It would be sited alongside three others owned, respectively by the owner of the land, external investors and Glasgow-based renewables company EML Group.
Participation in the scheme was approved by members of the Thornhill Community Trust, a body established in 2004 to set up local projects, last September and later by a village meeting convened by the community council.
Trust treasurer Jelle Muylle, said it was a novel and imaginative way of using renewable energy to benefit the local community, adding: “People in the village are really excited about the possibilities that this project can provide.
“As everyone knows, accessing public fundingfor community projects is becoming much tougher in the current economic climate. If our community becomes less financially dependent on public funding for its projects, then there will be more public funding left for those communities that perhaps need it more than us.”
Energy produced by the four 50m turbines wouldbe enough to power around 1000 homes. Every home in the village couldhave electricity at a reduced price for up to 25 years with the excess being sold by EML on the commercial market.
The community has access to 100 per cent finance for the purchase of its turbine, meaning that it is not obliged to provide any up-front funding and could receive an estimated annual windfall of up to £150,000 for the first 15 years of the 25 year project with income increasing thereafter.
George Murray, owner of Braes of Boquhapple farm said he had the option of seeking planning consent for a purely commercial wind farm on his land but was determined to pursue an option which would engage the community and provided it with an income.
“This unique ownership and management model benefits mutually all of the stakeholders and creates a more certain future for the village.”
Alan Powell, CEO of the EML Group, said: “The benefits of this scheme to the local community cannot be overestimated. As well as creating a sustainable community, it removes reliance on local authority grants and other hand-outs.
“It will also help to tackle fuel poverty, increase wealth in the area and keep the local landowner’s business in the area by making it self-sustaining beyond typical income streams.”
However, with several proposals for more than a dozen turbines on and around the Carse currently waiting for a decision – and increasing concerns about the cumulative effect of all the applications – some locals are already concerned that allowing one project could open the floodgates to many more.
One local said: “The numbers are increasing on a fortnightly basis, with the expectation that once one is given the go ahead to be built then the floodgates will open.
“ If it’s not checked, then by April 2013 the Carse will have one wind turbine in every square kilometre. Is that the legacy that we want to allow as a community?
“When it comes to the four applications for the wind turbines at the “Braes of Boquhapple”, what community wouldn’t jump at the chance of money like that. But let’s not forget that this money does not come to us for free. It comes with risks and responsibilities for the whole community.”
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