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Independent renewable generation in Scotland now powers more than one million homes

Posted on 02/07/2014 by Nick Sharpe

Fragile coastal habitats in the Outer Hebrides are being protected by a community wind farm, which is generating cash to improve outdated flood defences and ensure the survival of low-lying islands.

The £11.5m Loch Carnan Community Windfarm is generating profits for reinvestment in South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay by Stòras Uibhist, the community company which led Scotland’s biggest land buyout in 2006. This year, the wind farm is expected to generate £2 million gross revenue for the island community.

The project is one of a growing number of independent renewable electricity generation schemes, which are now powering the equivalent of a million homes across Scotland.

SmartestEnergy’s Energy Entrepreneurs Report 2014, published today shows that 169 new independent renewable projects of 50kW or more started in Scotland in 2013, up 50 per cent on the number of new starts in 2012. Trade body Scottish Renewables said the rise showed that independent electricity generators – including communities, businesses, farmers and public bodies – were increasingly taking their energy future into their own hands.

More than £66m was invested in independent, commercial-scale renewable electricity schemes in Scotland in 2013, generating around £234 million worth of electricity, up from £191m in 2012.

Other notable projects in the report include:
  • A wind turbine to power ski lifts and buildings at The Lecht ski centre in the Caringorms, which has already delivered energy savings and income of around £100,000 
  • A solar energy project at the Perthshire farm of award-winning butcher Simon Howie
  • The Rannoch Dam hydro scheme at Ardtornish Estate, near Oban, which supports the estate and provides funds for the local community.
Huw Francis, Chief Executive of Stòras Uibhist, said: “The wind farm is a community-owned scheme and it has been fully embraced by islanders. We have generated slightly more power than expected in the first year and made a gross revenue of £2.1 million. A big priority is to improve the outdated drainage infrastructure on the islands. There is a lot of very low-lying land and we will replace flood gates and valves which will safeguard our fragile machair habitat and protect people’s homes.”

Mr Francis added: “This is the biggest community wind farm in Scotland with 6.9MW of capacity - but there has not been any real criticism of the turbines because people can see that the revenue they generate is staying in the community and helping us to maintain and enhance the environment of our islands.” The wind farm is expected to raise in excess of £20 million for the community over the next two decades, with further plans to develop tourism, provide better recreational facilities and improve the islands' port facilities for fishermen and leisure sailors.

Stephanie Clark, Policy Manager for Scottish Renewables, said: “The Stòras Uibhist scheme is one of many excellent independent projects in Scotland. The fact that these schemes are now generating enough electricity to power more than one million homes shows that renewable energy is not just about large wind farms; it is just as much about smaller-scale, independent schemes designed to complement the natural landscape and deliver significant benefits to local communities

“More communities, businesses and farmers across Scotland are grasping the opportunity to take their energy future into their own hands. There are many persuasive reasons why renewable energy is increasingly popular: lower energy costs in the future; a reduced carbon footprint; potential income from selling power into the Grid; and as in Stòras Uibhist, a positive and direct impact on the local community.”

According to the figures, more than 500 independent projects of over 50kW capacity were operating across Scotland at the end of 2013, with a combined capacity of 1.7 GW - up by 25 per cent on 2012.

Iain Robertson, Head of Generation for SmartestEnergy, which buys electricity from more than 100 projects in Scotland, said: “With over £1 million a week being invested in these schemes, the independent sector is making an important contribution to the Scottish economy and providing valuable work for contractors and suppliers. The projects are also having a direct impact on the businesses, communities, landowners and developers behind them.

“Faced with steep rises in energy bills and concerns over security of supply, investing in renewable energy projects is a highly cost-effective way to reduce costs and develop new income streams.”

Notes to Editors
  • Smartest Energy’s second Energy Entrepreneurs’ report is published on Wednesday 2nd July. An advance copy is available on request.
  • Growth in project numbers in Scotland outstripped growth in England and Wales and 28.3 per cent of Great Britain’s independent renewable capacity is now Scottish-based. The biggest growth is in the farm sector, with commercial-scale projects up 83 per cent during 2013
  • Statistics used in the report were based on data collected in Scotland from independent renewable energy schemes of at least 50kW. An independent scheme is defined as a project NOT developed by one of the so-called Big Six utility companies – British Gas, EDF, E.On, Npower, ScottishPower and SSE.
  • A 50kW wind turbine would power 26.5 average homes, a typical 50kW hydro scheme around 34 homes and an average 50kW solar scheme around 10 homes.
  • Machair is a habitat of grassy dunes unique to the north-west coastlines of Scotland and Ireland and especially prevalent in the Outer Hebrides.
  • In June, Scottish Renewables launched the Made in Scotland from Renewables initiative to highlight how many farms and food producers were now powering their businesses using renewable energy:

Nick Sharpe

Director of Communications