Community energy: generating social and economic change

There has been precious little cheer in the community energy sector over the last few years.

Economic uncertainty and the end of several renewable energy subsidies and tax breaks have caused many projects to stall or slow down.

However, one scheme in Scotland has managed to buck the trend, and now looks set to generate £15.6m for its community and good causes over the next 20 years.

After a decade of development, the housing association Fyne Homes recently announced plans to build a three-turbine development in Argyll and Bute.

The 6.9MW windfarm will produce enough clean energy to power around 4,000 households and will be built with a £11.4m investment from Triodos Bank, the UK’s leading sustainable bank.

The Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies, has also provided £2.82m of investment for the project via the Renewable Energy Investment Fund. Initial support for the project was provide by the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme

The three turbines are expected to generate an average of £750,000 community benefit income per annum.

The money will help fund social housing projects, employment opportunities and environmental schemes, as well as local priorities identified by the community themselves.

‘We are appreciative that Triodos Bank and Scottish Investment Bank recognise the economic, social and environmental value of our three turbine development, providing essential investment to make the project a reality,’ said Fyne Homes chief executive, Colin Renfrew.

‘The long-term income from the three turbines will ensure the Fyne Group can continue to reinvest in our charitable objectives for social housing, local employment and sustainability, as well as providing investment for local priorities.’

The project has also been backed by the Scottish Government, as part of a pilot to develop renewable income for reinvestment in affordable housing and community priorities.

‘The Fyne project is a great example of the local community coming together to solve problems in an innovative way,’ says Triodos Bank account manager, Norrie Cruickshank.

‘The revenue that the wind turbines will generate is going to deliver on wider social and environmental goals—a model that we will continue to see more of.

‘As a bank that only invests in initiatives that are working towards positive social, cultural and environmental change, Triodos realises that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to project finance.

‘We are primarily concerned with wider impact: we want to ensure that any development is net positive for the local community, that it puts the organisation on sustainable footing. In this way, we ensure that our investment is being used to create social and environmental value, in addition to any financial return.’

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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