The Co-op finances UK's largest community-owned wind farm
A remote Scottish community is set to enjoy an economic boost of more than £20m after The Co-operative Bank agreed to finance the UK's largest community wind farm.
Ambitious residents in the Western Isles have come together to develop plans to erect the three wind turbine project on South Uist. The Stòras Uibhist Trust made the scheme possible following £1m of grant and loan funding from Social Investment Scotland, £2.4m from the European Regional Development Fund and £8m of finance from The Co-operative Bank.
It will generate more than £20m income for the local economy over the next twenty years, all of which will be re-invested in the local economy. The revenue will be used to help tackle many of the Island's economic and social challenges, with funds earmarked to improve tourism facilities, promote economic activity, improve recreational facilities and to make improvements to the islands' port facilities for fishermen and leisure sailors.
The project is announced as the UK's largest renewable energy event, the All-Energy Conference, begins in Aberdeen today (23 May).
Angus MacMillan, Chairman of Stòras Uibhist said, "This project has always been about generating income to re-invest into the local community for the benefit of the people who live on the islands of Eriskay, Benbecula and South Uist.
"We are now looking to the future when Storas Uibhist, in partnership with other local organisations, can make best use of this revenue and the people of this Estate can take their future into their own hands and transform these islands into a vibrant and growing place to live and work.
"This could only have happened with community ownership and demonstrates that when communities can manage their own assets they are able to transform their futures."
Chris Matthews, Renewable Energy Manager at The Co-operative Bank, said: "This scheme pushes the boundaries of community renewable energy.
"The quality of life for many residents on the Islands will be improved as a result, helping to create local jobs and diversify its economy at a time when like many communities it is facing significant economic and social pressures."
The Co-operative Bank specialises in small to medium projects with a capital value of up to £25m. It has considerable expertise in supporting development of renewable technologies such as onshore wind, hydro, biomass and combined heat & power systems. It intends to lend £1bn to the sector by 2013 as part of The Co-operative's Ethical Plan.
Huw Francis, Chief Executive of Stòras Uibhist added, ‘The realisation of this project will transform these islands and generate significant income for re-investment over the next 20 years. The construction of the UK's largest wholly community owned windfarm has been made possible by the dedication of the staff at Stòras Uibhist and with the support of Iochdar Hill Common Grazing Committee, HIE, BIG Lottery and Community Energy Scotland.'
Five years ago residents on the islands of Benbecula, Eriskay and South Uist took control of the South Uist Estate, in the largest community buyout in Scotland, and began working towards the economic and social regeneration of the islands.
The 93,000 acre estate is famous for its sea-trout and brown trout fishing. It is also host to some of Scotland's finest wildlife, including golden eagles, sea eagles and red deer. The community also restored and re-opened an ‘Old Tom' Golf Course in 2008 which was originally laid out in 1891.
HIE and BIG Lottery have provided grant support to the company during the development of this project and Community Energy Scotland has provided both grant and technical support.
Work to erect three Enercon E-70 2.3MW turbines will now begin and will be completed during August 2012.