UistWind begins construction

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A community wind farm project on the island of North Uist is entering the construction phase after a fundraising campaign raised a total of £452,850 – more than £100,000 more than the community needed for its equity stake in the project.

North Uist Development Company (Trading) are delighted with the final figure for UistWind, the project which will build two 900kW turbines at Criongrabhal, near Clachan-na-Luib, and raise more than £2million over the project’s lifetime for the community to invest in good causes.

North Uist Development Company (Trading) expressed their delight at the sum raised – and thanked all the investors who made it possible, as well as the organisations and lenders which supported the project.

Thanks must go to Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) for significant financial support and also to Triodos Bank UK, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Ministry of Defence, the Western Isles Development Trust, Local Energy Scotland and Community Energy Scotland. Thanks also to Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Community Shares Scotland, the Plunkett Foundation, Co-operatives and Mutual Solutions (CMS) for help with the community share issue, and to Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Commercial loans are covering most of the cost of the £3.5million project but the community still needed to raise a minimum of £350,000 as its equity stake in the project. That total was languishing at £317,000 in November but the final fundraising push saw it pass £400,000 on Christmas Eve.

The biggest thanks, therefore, have to go to all those who put their faith in the project and invested their money – as well as to the wider Uist community and all the community energy projects from across Scotland which gave encouragement and advice to UistWind at times of pressure.

UistWind is being financed mainly by Triodos Bank UK, the ethical bank with specialist experience in financing community renewable energy projects, with a secondary loan from the Energy Investment Fund (‘EIF’), a Scottish Government Fund managed and delivered by the Scottish Investment Bank. More than 240 investors contributed to the community fundraiser – the vast majority by buying shares.

The project is to be built with Feed-In-Tariff support, which provides a set price for the electricity supplied which is index linked, and could be the last renewable development in the Outer Hebrides to be built with this support. The Feed-In-Tariff deadline is September 30, 2019, so the wind farm should be operational by October this year.

The 1.8MW renewables project will be owned by the community and aims to generate more than £105,000 a year – or £2.33million over the project’s projected lifespan of 22 years – with the profits going straight back to the community via North Uist Development Company’s charitable activities.

Due to the financial structure of the project, the community returns will be small for the first few years but will accelerate thereafter.

A community engagement exercise is to be carried out in order to develop a community investment plan. This plan will link up with the community development plan previously created by North Uist Development Company and more details on the consultation event will be coming soon.

UistWind has full planning permission and a licence to sell its electricity to the National Grid. There is space reserved on the current cable for power to be exported to the mainland. After that, an upgraded connection or interconnector will be necessary to allow any more developments.