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 – firstname.lastname@example.org , Tel. 01496 301413