Over 35 people who attended the Islay Energy Trust Annual General Meeting at ICCI on Wednesday 20th November were given details of IET’s current projects and plans. In particular, there was considerable interest in Lindy MacLellan’s briefing on the anticipated benefits (up to £80,000 p.a.) from the 330kW Community Wind Project near Castlehill which is nearing financial close, and in Jenni Minto’s preview of the launch of the Islay Energy Community Benefit Society (IECBS) in January. The cost of the Project is around £1 million, and the more that can be raised from local investors through the IECBS share offer, the less that will have to be borrowed from a bank. This means there will be higher ‘dividends’ to the community. More details on the share offer will be forthcoming over the next few weeks. In addition, there were also presentations from Flora Maclean on the Sound of Islay Tidal Project, and from George Dean on the Bio-fuel from Distillery Wastes Study which has been a joint venture with Re-Jig. Stephen Harrison, Deputy Head of Islay High School, was elected to the IET Board in place of Mr Ian Stuart who has resigned, and Kirsten Laurie and Gus Newman were re-elected as Directors.
IET is delighted to announce that its community wind turbine project near Castlehill was granted planning permission at a Council Planning Meeting on the 19th June. This is the culmination of development work which started in 2006 and which has included lengthy discussions with HIAL over airport safeguarding zones, lease negotiations with the landowner – SNH (still in progress), wind resource data gathering using a metmast installed on the proposed site, technology selection, ongoing grid connection and power purchase negotiations, visual impact assessments, a 12-month bird survey.
Once it is up and running, hopefully in mid-2014 (this is subject to turbine delivery schedule and agreement on the grid connection), the 330 kW turbine is expected to generate £60-80,000 p.a. for the benefit of the community. The actual sum will be partly dependent on how much equity can be raised by the Islay Energy Community Benefit Society (IECBS), and how much comes in the form of commercial loans. Indeed, the next big challenge is fund raising. IECBS, which will eventually own and operate the wind turbine and sell the electricity, is expecting to launch a share offer before the end of this year, the objective of which is to raise up to £650,000 which will be used to fund the purchase, installation and commissioning of the turbine.
We believe that Islay’s project could be one of the first in Scotland to be funded mainly by members of the local community.
Islay came a step closer to owning its own community wind turbine recently, with the signing of a Turbine Supply Agreement with wind turbine manufacturer Enercon. We will shortly pay a returnable deposit for the turbine, covered by The Scottish Government’s CARES loan scheme, with confirmation of the order due on receipt of planning permission – expected in June of this year, once all bird study work has been completed.
It’s been a long hard road to get to this point, and there are still hurdles to cross – notably, the possibility of a delayed grid connection due to lack of capacity on the Argyll network. We are not the only community affected by this constraint, and as a result there has been a great deal of very constructive discussion with Scottish and Southern Energy, facilitated by Community Energy Scotland, which may lead to us being able to connect on schedule – fingers crossed.
Whenever we connect, the cost of that connection is going to be considerable, and Islay Energy Trust have been invited to submit a Stage 2 application to the Big Lottery Growing Community Assets fund to cover the work required to strengthen the grid. As part of this application we are required to show evidence of a clear and focused plan for distribution of the eventual income from the turbine. In order to do this, we have commissioned a full community needs analysis for Islay, Jura and Colonsay, building on existing studies where appropriate and consulting with as wide a variety of organisations, businesses and individuals as possible. Following confirmation of development funding from The Big Lottery Fund, consultancy firm SKS Scotland will be starting work as soon as is practical to gather your views on what our communities need to build strength and resilience. In essence, we need answers to these questions –
- What to fund
- How to fund it – small grants, large grants
- How to distribute the fund – should IET use other existing groups to distribute the fund or set up its own mechanism?
There will be a variety of ways to respond – via survey forms, at focus groups around the islands, at open meetings – and we want to hear from all sections of the community. If you want some ideas on how other communities are spending their earnings from renewables, just take a look at how they are doing it on Tiree with their Windfall Fund - or on Westray.
The only limits are on ambition and imagination – and our three islands are not short on those!
Full details of the consultation events will be advertised widely, but if you would like to be sure that your group, business or household is contacted directly, please get in touch with Lindy at the IET office in Bowmore – email@example.com , Tel. 01496 301413
Islay Energy Trust’s met mast has been gathering data on the proposed community wind turbine site near Glenegedale for just over 4 months now, and it’s all good news so far. The wind resource, as expected, is excellent, with wind speeds averaging just over 7m/s during the period, with the windiest time of year still to come. One surprise – to me at least – has been that despite everything I was taught at school the prevailing wind on Islay has been from everywhere but the south west! If you haven’t yet spotted the met mast, take a look above the High Road when you’re next passing Buildbase – this will also be the site of the turbine.
Gathering of wind data is an essential part of our project, as full figures are required to guarantee any finance, as well as to satisfy the turbine manufacturer that the desired turbine will perform to their warranty standards. By next June we will have a whole year’s figures, and, if all goes well with the bird study and no geese put in an appearance in the vicinity, then shortly afterwards we hope to be granted planning permission.
That, of course, is not the whole story, as the main issue facing us at present is the lack of grid capacity in Argyll as a whole, which means that theoretically we may not be able to connect until 2016, when the new Carradale – Hunterston link is completed. We are currently engaged with Community Energy Scotland, SSE and other bodies to try to identify a solution to this, and in the meantime will complete all preparatory work so that we are ready to move as soon as possible; our goal, grid allowing, is to have the project completed by late 2013, although this may yet prove to be ambitious.
The delay does affect the economics of the project as the Feed-in Tariff will be reduced next April for new installations; however it will still mean around £80,000 per year should be available for community use. How best to spend this fund will be the subject of wide consultation in the near future, and we hope the wider community will help put together a sound plan.
Islay Energy Trust’s third Renewables Day on 28th January drew a good crowd once again, all keen to find out more about how renewable technologies can benefit the average house, while also picking up a few tips on composting from Polly and indulging in delicious baking and snacks from the Islay High School Hospitality team. Following the recent cuts to Feed-in Tariff for solar PV, the emphasis this year switched away from harnessing the power of the sun to harnessing the potential of the heat pump, with particular interest in air-air heat pumps, which many are finding to be an efficient and affordable alternative to oil and electricity when it comes to heating the home. If you’d like more information on any renewable technology but weren’t able to attend on the day, please feel free to get in touch and we can supply a list of exhibitors.
The event is also a useful opportunity to keep everyone up to date with IET’s activities, and of course to gain new members, which won’t have escaped the notice of anyone trying to get into the hall without attracting the attention of Malcolm Ogilvie, our chief recruiter. Over 31 new membership forms were handed out on the day; most have found their way back to us, but if you still have yours then feel free to drop it into the office at any time. Our membership now stands at over 300, which helps to show good community engagement when we apply for funding support for projects.
Andy Macdonald gave a thorough and informative update on the Sound of Islay Tidal project, which is making good progress, and also on display was a selection of images from the recent visual assessment carried out for our single community wind turbine proposal near Castlehill. This project is still very much in the development stage as we are in negotiation over the ground lease, but Scottish Natural Heritage, as site owner, has very helpfully given us interim permission to carry out various studies to take full advantage of our current funding. This means that in addition to commissioning the visual assessment we have been able to apply for a grid connection for the project, and have recently submitted a planning application for a met mast on the site so that we can carry out the necessary wind speed assessments. We hope that this project, which would see the installation of one 330kW turbine, will one day earn a considerable income for the community – but there are a number of hurdles still to clear, not least that grid connection application.
The visual assessment has been a very interesting exercise, and it is encouraging to see how low-key the installation would be if it goes ahead. If you didn’t see the pictures on the day, they are available to see at our office in Main Street – please call in during office hours, all comments welcome.
Marine Scotland have published their latest report Scoping Study for Offshore Wind Farm Development in Scottish Waters investigating the offshore wind plan options. This report includes the first discussion of development outside Scottish Territorial Waters (STW) to 200 nautical miles and also considers the medium term options (beyond 2020).
The report builds on the earlier report Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters (Blue Seas – Green Energy) using an improved (and more systematic) assessment process to consider current commercial activities such as fishing, environmental factors and other interests including recreational uses, visual and landscape impacts.
Whilst the previous report focused on the short term options up to 2020 within Scottish Territorial Waters (STW), the latest report extends this to include the area out to 200 nautical miles. Much of this area is deeper than 60m and will require improvements in technology so is considered in terms of longer term development.
The study is the first investigation of the wider area and longer term options for Offshore Wind around Scotland. It will be followed by the development of Regional Locational Guidelines for offshore wind development and this will then be followed by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
This is a long process that must involve wide consultation. The short term sites in the previous plan (West of Islay and West of Tiree) are still going through Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The new study is looking at areas for investigation beyond this and are unlikely to go ahead before 2020.
The areas identified for further investigation include a large area from the north of Islay to south of Barra. The report identifies this area as having a low to moderate levels of constraint and says that further detailed analysis of the area is required.
It is important to local communities that this process takes full account of the social and economic impacts to the region as well as the broader commercial and strategic benefits of these developments to Scotland as a whole.
Have you just installed a renewable technology at your home? Are you willing to share your experience of the process with others? The Energy Saving Trust has just launched a new initiative called the Green Homes Network, where any householder thinking of installation can search for homes in their area who have already installed and who would be willing to allow a visit. At present there are no Green Homes registered on Islay and only one on Jura, and we know there are lots more out there! It’s easy to register – just visit the Green Homes Network page and fill in your details. Personal details do not appear on the site and any prospective visitors must arrange an appointment through the Energy Saving Trust – so there’s no danger of busloads of PV tourists appearing in your garden unannounced!
The community-owned Islay and Kintyre Energy Trusts and the Tiree Community Development Trust have formed the Argyll Renewables Communities (“ARC”) Consortium to investigate fully the impacts, both positive and negative, on their local communities of offshore wind and marine energy exploitation.
The seas west of Argyll contain some of the main tidal, wave and offshore wind energy resource areas in the UK. In March 2009, the Crown Estate announced exclusivity agreements with developers to investigate three large scale offshore wind projects: Airtricity off Kintyre (378MW) and Islay (680MW), and ScottishPower Renewables off Tiree (1500MW).
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is conducting a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of offshore wind resources. Looking ahead, it is expected that the Crown Estate will begin the process of opening up areas off the Argyll coast for marine energy exploitation in the near future.
All three Trusts already have experience of involvement in renewable energy projects. In February 2009, the Islay Energy Trust signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ScottishPower Renewables for the development of a 10MW tidal energy array in the Sound of Islay; the Tiree Community Development Trust are in the process of installing a 900kW community wind turbine, and Kintyre are also developing a wind turbine project. In addition, the Trusts have a wide range of relevant skills and experience available to them through their members and Trustees.
Local communities often have the feeling that industrial-scale renewable energy developments are imposed by remote forces with little or no effective local participation, let alone influence or control. This can fuel responses which vary from helplessness through apathy to active opposition. On the other hand, if development goes ahead, genuine collaboration between community and corporate interests can lead to enhanced value and beneficial impacts for both the project and those affected.
Members of the ARC Consortium wish to be considered active participants in both the assessment and development processes and any eventual operations, rather than merely bystanders, and thereby to ensure the best possible outcomes for their communities, as well as for all stakeholders. They are studying options for communities becoming more involved in the development of offshore renewable energy projects. They are also negotiating with the developers and consulting with other key stakeholders, such as Crown Estate, Scottish Government, Argyll and Bute Council, etc.
Jim Mather, MSP for Argyll and Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism in the Scottish Government, attended a recent meeting of the consortium, and gave a warm welcome to the ARC project. He said: “this is a ground-breaking, collaborative initiative by voluntary community groups, whose proactive involvement with developers and other bodies could help in making local communities in areas with fragile economies more sustainable”.