Scottish Renewables made the official announcement on Wednesday, October 16, after considering more than 100 entries.
The recognition follows a very challenging development and construction journey for the Hebridean wind farm, at Criongrabhal near Clachan-na-Luib in North Uist, which came to a happy conclusion with the official Open Day on September 20.
Mustapha Hocine, chair of North Uist Development Company (Trading) Limited, said: “It’s always good for a small community project to be recognised with the extra effort needed by all to deliver a community project and, especially after all the difficulties we have faced to get here.
“Congratulations goes to staff, members and Directors for all the hard work and adaptability to achieve these successes.”
Other recent highlights for UistWind have been the publication of its Community Investment Plan and the welcoming of new Directors at the Annual General Meeting.
The Community Investment Plan, detailing how the North Uist community would like to spend the benefit fund from its UistWind project once the wind farm starts generating a profit, is now online.
The plan details the spending priorities of the community as established by the community benefit survey carried out over the summer, in paper and online and also by school engagement.
The creation of the plan followed a number of consultation events through the summer, including the North Uist Highland Games and Agricultural Show and a day-long event at Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath about renewables and climate change.
A number of investment priorities were identified in the plan, as well as the favoured processes for how the money would be distributed. These included that North Uist Development Company will administer the community benefit funds through quarterly funding rounds and that funding decisions would be taken by committee, upon application. Different levels of grant will be available.
In terms of investment priorities, in the combined online and paper survey results the most popular topic was projects to support young people on the island. Start-up funds was the next most popular option, followed by four options with similar results: local charities, local environmental projects, tourism infrastructure and local care and support projects.
The plan can be read online on the www.uistwind.com website and will be updated in future years once the project begins to generate a profit for the benefit of the local community.
Publication of the plan followed UistWind’s successful Open Day and thanks go to Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band for leading a march to the official ceremony, where a group of young pupils from Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath cut the ribbon on the day of global climate strikes to mark the passing of the torch to the younger generation who will benefit from the income from the turbines and their contribution to the fight against global warming.
UistWind also welcomed Angus Brendan MacNeil MP who gave an opening speech.
Looking back on that momentous opening, Mr MacNeil said: “The Directors of UistWind are to be congratulated for their continued efforts in bringing forward this development. This project again highlights that the volunteers who pushed the project forward did so at a time of personal risk for community gain, therefore, their efforts should be doubly applauded. I was delighted to be able to attend the official opening and I wish them continued success for the future.”
The Annual General Meeting, rescheduled from September 21 was held in Carinish Hall on September 28, where a new management committee was appointed, among other business. There are now nine on the committee. Three were appointed from North Uist Development Company – Pam MacPherson, Mustapha Hocine and Andrew Ross – and the other six are Catherine MacLeod, Alastair Macleod, Cliff Black, Norman Dunn, Tony Pendle and Steven Kemp.
UistWind director Andrew Ross said: “We’re delighted to have new people involved, bringing complementary skills onto the board. The success of the project so far is, we believe, encouraging high calibre people to want to get involved. They will bring their skills and expertise to ensure the project continues to be a success into the future.”
The UistWind project – now generating power – comprises two 900kW turbines at Criongrabhal and is wholly community owned.
Looking back on the UistWind journey so far, Ameena Camps, UistWind Project Delivery Manager, said: “We are thrilled so many were able to join us on the Open Day, especially the North Uist primary school students who cut the ceremonial ribbon to mark this special occasion and came to celebrate the installation of their wind turbines which will benefit younger generations into the future.
“We’d like to send a huge thank you to the Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band who led the opening ceremony with a march to Turbine 1, bringing tears to our eyes on this momentous occasion, and thanks to Angus Brendan MacNeil who joined us to provide the first words of the ceremony.
“It has been a struggle to get to this point and it is wonderful to be able to celebrate with the community now both turbines are generating.”
These struggles were the subject of a presentation Ameena gave to the Scottish Islands Federation Learning Exchange and AGM, held on Grimsay from October 1 to 4 – and she admitted: “I shocked everyone with how many hurdles we’ve had to overcome”.
Overcoming barriers is one part of the selection criteria for the Scottish Green Energy Award for Best Community Project, as is benefit to the local community – and UistWind have nearly 10 years of struggles behind them, to get to this point of generating clean energy.
The winners of the awards will be announced at the finals ceremony in Edinburgh on 5 December.