The Point and Sandwick communities have clinched a massive £13 million funding deal to build Britain’s biggest community wind farm in the Western Isles.
The Co-operative Bank confirmed it proposes to stage of its own largest social finance deals and lend the cash to Point and Sandwick Trust, known locally as Point Power, to build three large turbines on communal crofters’ grazings by Marybank, outside Stornoway.
When completed, the nine megawatt development at Beinn Ghrideag will be the country’s largest community owned turbine scheme. The loan would be drawn down after the community finalises formalities and a lease with the Stornoway Trust.
It means the crofters’ first electricity should be generated onto the national grid later next year. It would supply 6,000 households and save 13,600 tonnes of CO2 each year.
Some £40 million of profits over the next 25 years will be ploughed back into vital social projects like job creation, rural regeneration and improving local amenities.
One body to benefit will be the Bethesda Cancer Hospice in Stornoway which has been promised an annual donation of £20,000 after it starts operating.
Donald John Macsween, the chair of Point Power, said: “This is wonderful news for the community. We are extremely grateful to the Co-operative Bank which now helps us place the orders for the turbines.
“We plan to start construction early next year and have the turbines working and connected by December 2012.”
Mr Macsween, a councillor for the Point district, said, despite a long hard struggle “we always had faith in the project and now that doggedness has been rewarded today.”
He highlighted the profits would help local projects which were stalled due to a lack of cash in addition to job creation enterprises and improving community amenities.
Mr Macsween believes the project will show that community-owned wind farms can be developed on a commercial scale and give a far higher return to the whole community than giant schemes controlled by outside private firms.
A spokesman for the Co-operative Bank said: “Terms have been agreed between The Co-operative Bank and Point and Sandwick Power to finance a wind farm on Lewis.”
He added: “The scheme would be the UK’s largest ever community wind farm and would be used to build three Enercon E82 turbines, measuring 125 metres high from base to blade tip to be built on crofting common grazings 5 km west of Stornoway.
“The wind farm would likely complete during 2012 and would produce enough energy for 6,000 households, equivalent to the entire island of Lewis.”
He said: “It will generate an estimated £40 Million in profit over its 25 year lifespan, all of which would be reinvested by Point and Sandwick Power in community projects across the Western Isles.”
Though the Point and Sandwick district is miles away beyond the the other side of the town, crofters have traditional grazings and peat cutting rights at the back of Stornoway to compensate for the shortage of pasture in their own area.
The community wind scheme will neighbour a giant 42-turbine windfarm being progressed by Lewis Windpower – a partnership between Amec and French-owned EDF Energy.
The Stornoway Trust has opted to support the Amec development rather than establish its own turbines for the community. But critics point out that 25-times more profit would be generated for local projects from community-owned turbines which each have an average return of £100,000 yearly.
The governing board of the Point and Sandwick Trust is elected by the community and membership is open to all electors in the area. Grazings Committees are also represented on the board, along with the two local Community Councils.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding