Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Supreme success for community-owned wind project

Profits from the community-owned Isle of Gigha's grid-connected windfarm have not only paid for the first phase of a housing improvement program for its residents, but also helped the windfarm win three awards.

The wind tubines, dubbed 'Dancing Ladies,' make the island self-sufficient in electricity - and then some: a quarter of the power is sold to the mainland. It will create a profit of £159,000 in its first year.

Andy Clements, chairman of Gigha Renewable Energy, set up to build and manage the windfarm, said: "There have been no major faults. Our windfarm has generally run itself and made us a profit which we are ploughing back into vital projects such as refurbished housing for our community."

Fantastic. We need to see more of this type of initiative, much more. This should be communicated to Malcolm Wicks as part of the current Energy Review and the Microgeneration review.

This is not the only such UK project. The wheeler-dealing Low Carbon Kid has shares in the smaller Bro Dyfi Community Renewables, in mid-Wales. But sadly, such projects can be counted on one hand in the UK.

More on Gigha

This community owned wind farm in Scotland, on an island which is itself community owned, began generating power in January 2005, immediately supplying a profit of over £75,000 a year for community projects such as housing improvement.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise has established a Community Energy Company to replicate the Gigha model of community ownership in communities throughout Scotland.

Willie McSporran MBE, [this name kills me, I'm sorry!] chair of the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust and a director of Gigha Renewable Energy Company, explained; "The solution we have developed in Gigha works by combining grant funding with loan and equity finance secured at commercial rates. The company simply pays back the loan and buys back the equity within five years. What's more by year eight we will have built up a capital re-investment fund sufficient to replace the machines without recourse to further financing." If the wind farm were privately owned there would just be £2,000 a year for the community.

Green Energy UK, the sole purchaser for the energy, won an open tender because it pledged to give away half its company in shares to its customers; the Trust will also receive shares as will any local resident who buys their electricity from Green Energy UK.

Three 225kW turbines will supply over two thirds of the island's needs, and have already won the Ernst and Young / Euromoney UK Renewable Energy Award for best community project for their innovative use of second hand machines.

As of the 14 December it had generated 1,938,895.5 kWh.

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