Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Development Trust was incorporated in March 2007. As a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee, it is also a registered Scottish charity. The trust’s aims are to manage community land and associated assets for the benefit of the community, and the public in general, as an important part of the protection and sustainable development of Scotland’s natural environment
What was the opportunity within our community?
Between 2000 and 2003, the largest single local employer reduced its workforce from over 20 full-time to fewer than three part-time workers. Faced with this challenge, the local community council investigated potential independent income streams to become more enterprising and less reliant on external organisations and investment. Wind turbines were examined early in this investigation, and were a popular choice within the community, receiving backing at a series of public meetings.
How did the community respond?
From late 2006, with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and HICEC (now Community Energy Scotland), the community council held another series of public meetings to set up a development trust to take this and other projects forward. A draft development plan was presented to the community as a whole at a public meeting in early 2007 and attendees were asked to vote on which projects they wanted trust to start to work on. The prospect of constructing a community-owned wind turbine was such a popular idea that it gained
almost twice the votes of the next most popular project.
From set up to implementation
This community mandate triggered a series of feasibility studies, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), planning permission applications, wind yield and grid surveys. Wind speed measurement at the proposed site allowed for more detailed and accurate financial modelling of the potential income from a turbine, as well as
providing a level of security for both the funders and the turbine manufacturers.
The appointment of a Turbine Development Officer helped to ensure the delivery of the project, from securing the crucial financial agreements, to the ordering of the turbine itself, insurances, turbine delivery and liaison with construction contractors. As part of a consortium of Orkney communities who are developing similar projects, called Community Power Orkney, the Trust was able to share as well as draw from the technical knowledge, skills and experience of other development trusts engaged in similar projects. The Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre community wind turbine was constructed during August 2011, commissioned in October, and produced its first income for the community just in time for the new year 2012.
Example of flagship change/development/interventions enabled by community benefit/investment opportunity.
Since the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Development Trust was first set up, the Board has used different approaches to establish what the community as a whole wanted. These included postal surveys, open days and meetings.
In late 2010, the trust was awarded £400,000 from the Big Lottery Fund. It had been intended that this money would be used on the development of the wind turbine project, the income of which would in turn be used to address a number of agreed social outcomes. However, the Feed in Tariff Review of November that year meant that new state aid rules disallowed use of the grant in this way, if FiTs were going to be claimed on the turbine’s production. Fortunately, the Big Lottery Fund allowed the Trust to retain the grant for the social outcomes identified, and this has so far been used to purchase land, fund a development officer post, improve play park facilities and improve communications links between the islands.
Early feedback from the community on how the turbine income should be spent, has identified a number of options, including the construction of a community care facility and a swimming pool. These, along with education bursaries, funding apprenticeships and training and improving the available housing on the islands formed the basis of a revised development plan, published in 2011.
The trust has funded a researcher post to approach every member of the community to establish which projects to develop.
In addition to the local experience gained by the Trust itself, it will continue to participate in Community Power Orkney. Members of this organisation are now working jointly to prepare processes and procedures of how to handle the incomes generated by these revenue producing projects.
Three top tips for other communities
Get help. There is a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise out there. Community Energy Scotland is Scotland’s only charity dedicated to supporting communities with their renewable energy projects. CES can also put you in touch with development trusts who have been through this experience know what it is like, and would be more than happy to help, chat and share their knowledge.
Choose your bank/financier wisely. You are going to be doing business with them for a very long time. Don’t underestimate the softer qualities of setting up your financial agreement, such as customer service, not just the deal on the table. If you have a good working relationship with your bank, those with whom you are in regular contact, become as integral a part of your project as your own board.
Secure funding for a development post, which can shoulder a great deal of the load. There is a lot to do, and you want to avoid volunteer burn out. Your appointee can read the legal papers, trudge back and forth to your site in the wind and rain, pull all the contracts together, and summarise it all for the benefit of you and the board.