The community wind farm project on 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.
Mustapha Hocine, chair of North Uist Development Company (Trading) Ltd, said: “I am delighted that we have reached this key stage in the development of the North Uist Renewable project. With the support of all our investors and our lenders, Triodos Bank and EIF, we can now enter the construction phase of this important community project with a high level of confidence.
“I echo the many thanks that have been stated elsewhere, but in particular want to pay tribute to the unwavering support of my fellow directors of NUDC, the North Uist community and the over 240 investors who have made this project possible.”
Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government has played a part in making this important community project at Criongrabhal happen, by providing £575,095 of funding from our Energy Investment Fund towards the capital cost of the project. The community has also benefitted from important support through our Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES).
“As someone who believes that such investments can be transformative for communities, it is absolutely fantastic to see the local island communities, and indeed communities and investors across Scotland, come together to support the project and help them exceed their equity stake.
“The team at North Uist Development Company has worked tirelessly to overcome a number of challenges and I want to congratulate them for all their hard work and their achievements to date. I wish them every success with the construction phase of the project and look forward to seeing the turbines in action – benefitting the local North Uist community for years to come.”
Kerry Sharp, Director of the Scottish Investment Bank, said: “This innovative deal is a great example of how we can work alongside different stakeholders, in this case a senior lender and community share offer, to support initiatives that help deliver both commercial and societal benefits. Projects like this community-owned wind farm at Criongrabhal play an important part in helping grow Scotland’s renewable energy generation capability while supporting local charitable activities.”
Ameena Camps, Local Development Officer with NUDC, added: “We have had to jump over far too many hurdles to reach this point. The months of sleepless nights and endless workdays to meet the needs of the project have finally been worthwhile. Thanks goes to all who have helped during this complicated process. Tenacity has paid off – we did it! Now on to construction…”
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 also space reserved on the current cable for its power to be exported to the mainland. After that, an upgraded connection or interconnector will be necessary to allow any more developments.
Thumbs up from, from left to right, Peter Keiller, Catherine Macleod, Kirsty Macleod, Ameena Camps, Alastair Macleod and Mustapha Hocine. Peter and Kirsty are directors of North Uist Development Company; Catherine, Alastair and Mustapha are directors (Mustapha is also chair) of North Uist Development Company (Trading); and Ameena is local development officer for North Uist Development Company.