The Hebridean island of Barra is soon to have its own Community Wind Turbine.
A 900kW Enercon E-44 wind turbine is being installed at Gòb Sgùrabhal, on the most north westerly point of the island. Early indications are that the wind resource will make this one of the most productive 900kW turbine in Western Europe. It is expected that after a few years the revenue from the turbine will be able to be used for developments on the island.
Barra now joins the group of islands with wholly community-owned wind turbines from Gigha in the south, through Tiree, South Uist, Lewis to the Orkney Isles. Project leader Euan Scott commented “it has been a long journey but worthwhile as the local community will benefit from the income stream generated over the years to come.”
Unlike other island turbines, Barra’s will be the first to be delivered using a beach landing. However, Barra has used a beach as an airport since 1934, so perhaps it is not so surprising.
The project has been largely funded by Triodos Bank, who view both the environmental and community aspects of the project as central to their core ethos.
Financial support has also been forthcoming from the Scottish Government’s Renewable Energy Investment Fund, Community and Renewable Energy Scheme and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar through its part-EU-funded programme, Outer Hebrides Small Business Assistance Scheme. The Community Energy Scotland team has provided advice and support over several years.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise have supported the community over a number of years. This includes grant assistance in 2008 towards the employment of a wind project manager and more recently, though the Community Account Management process which involves community consultations and the creation of a community Development Plan.
The community company, Coimhearsnachd Bharraidh agus Bhatarsaidh, set up a subsidiary to build and operate the turbine. Barra and Vatersay Wind Energy Ltd (BVWE) will pass the profits from operation of the turbine to the community company for investment in development projects on Barra and Vatersay.
Donald MacNeil, a director of BVWE commented “There have been a few times when we began to doubt if it would ever happen but we stuck in there and persisted. Frankly without Euan Scott as manager I doubt if we could have succeeded.”
A relieved Euan added “I have been directly involved in this for over three years, and it would simply not have been possible without the enormous goodwill and support shown towards us by our funders and partners, especially John MacLennan Contractors. ”
The project was conceived in 2005, with feasibility studies commencing in 2006. Overall the project will have cost in the region of £2.45m and is believed to be the only community wind turbine project to have been successfully undertaken entirely in-house, even contracting the transport directly.
It is unusual in that the turbine stands on land owned by the Scottish Government. It is an excellent example of co-operation between public bodies, the local community and private funders.
Local Councillor Donald Manford was ecstatic. “The significance of this achievement cannot be overstated. The single-minded determination to succeed is a tribute to the entire community.”
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The people of Barra should be seen as an exemplar for other communities in Scotland. They will soon have their own community turbine - that the Scottish Government has been able to offer support, from our Community and Renewable Energy Scheme and Renewable Energy Investment Fund. This shows our commitment for all communities across Scotland to share in the rich rewards of our renewable energy resources.
“The Scottish Government CARES scheme aims to provide loans towards the high risk, pre-planning consent stages of renewable energy projects which have significant community engagement and benefit is leading the way across the UK in how we support local ownership of renewable energy.”