Posted on: 19/11/2012
From buying an iPad for a playgroup and floodlights for a tennis club to helping respond to medical emergencies, the income generated from a community wind turbine is already benefitting hundreds of residents of two Aberdeenshire villages.
Since the Udny Community Turbine, the first wholly community-owned and operated wind turbine of its kind on the Scottish mainland, began turning a year ago it has generated more than £120,000 in income.
So far £40,000 has been distributed to local good causes with a further £80,000 now in a reserve fund. Over the 20 year life span of the £1.45m turbine, up to £5m in profit is expected to be generated – equivalent to £2,000 for every resident of the Udny Green and Pitmedden villages who are benefitting from the turbine.
Electricity generated by the turbine is bought by SmartestEnergy, which works with a growing number of community schemes across Scotland and supplies renewable energy to customers including Marks & Spencer.
Iain Robertson of SmartestEnergy’s Glasgow office said the Udny project demonstrates the potential of renewable energy schemes to support local communities. “Investing in renewable energy can generate significant long-term income streams to fund local projects at a grassroots level. With energy prices forecast to continue to rise, SmartestEnergy is seeing growing interest from communities looking to develop their own schemes.”
Brian McDougall, chair of the Udny Community Trust which is responsible for distributing the funds, said he was delighted with progress so far. “We predicted the turbine would generate £100,000 in income so the first year has seen us do better than expected thanks to it being a windy winter.
“After many years of hard work in getting the turbine up and running it is great to see the money generated now having an impact across our community.”
The trust has had a diverse range of applications for funding and aims to ensure as many people as possible in the community benefit. For example, in return for a £7,500 grant to provide floodlighting at Udny Tennis Club in Pitmedden, the courts are opened up to school children for free one morning a week.
The neighbouring bowling club, which has had some £5,000 towards improving its playing surface, is providing opportunities for children to try the sport while they are waiting for their turn on the tennis courts.
The trust was also able to sponsor the Christmas lights switch on and provide all local children attending with a present of a selection box.
The leasing of a vehicle for the Pitmedden First Responders, part of a rural service where volunteers attend incidents ahead of the ambulance service, is also being paid for.
The trust is now looking at funding a number of longer term projects which will provide lasting benefits for the area including a new community hall in Pitmedden. It is also in the process of appointing a community development officer who will be funded in part by income from the turbine.
The process developed by the trust for local groups to apply for funding is also attracting significant interest from other communities in Scotland developing renewable energy projects. “We developed the process ourselves and after a bit of refining now have a simple but effective system both for people to apply for funding and for applications to be assessed,” said Brian.
Requests for less than £500 are decided on at trust meetings with those for more than £500 first assessed by members of a project evaluation group drawn from people across the community.
Earlier this month SmartestEnergy revealed that smaller-scale renewable energy projects in Scotland– including wind turbines erected by community groups and farmers to provide new income streams - could now be generating some £200m worth of power a year, latest estimates suggest.
There are now around 280 independent, commercial-scale projects across the country with a total capacity of 750MW - equivalent to a small conventional power station and enough to power more than 500,000 households.