North Uist Development Company and UistWind have topped off an autumn of success with the news that the UistWind renewables project has been shortlisted for the Best Community Project Award at The Scottish Green Energy Awards.
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 (pictured below with pupils from Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath) 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.
The UistWind project has passed two key milestones. The main news is the second turbine is now up after early problems with its concrete base meant the foundation had to be rebuilt.
Timelapse footage by UistFilm captured the moment the rotor and blades for turbine 1 – T1 – were installed (in the morning of August 20), amid great excitement after the previous difficulties.
In other news, the first turbine to go up – T2 – is now generating electricity. It was fully commissioned and exported power to the Grid for the first time on August 2.
UistWind is a community project to erect two 900kW turbines in North Uist, at Criongrabhal near Clachan-na-Luib. The wind farm is due to be operational by October this year.
A North Uist Development Company (Trading) project, the wind farm aims to generate more than £2 million over the project’s lifetime of 22 years – with the profits going straight back to the community via NUDC’s charitable activities.
Construction of the first turbine, T2, was completed in July and there were celebrations when its blades began to turn for the first time on July 31.
One of the UistWind directors captured a video of this welcome sight and it was posted on social media, along with the explanation it would continue to appear to spin on and off while the commissioning process took place.
There was further joy when the construction of T1 was completed and this final stage was nicely documented with the timelapse video shot by Andy MacKinnon and arranged with the help of project managers Locogen.
UistWind are delighted to have finally reached the stage of seeing both turbines installed.
They also paid tribute to the personnel at the MoD and QinetiQ for working with them to facilitate the creation of the community-owned wind farm, overcoming challenges posed by its proximity to the Hebrides Range.
Dr Ameena Camps, Project Delivery Manager with North Uist Development Company, said: “I cannot begin to explain how thrilled we are to see both turbines in place, and both will soon be generating electricity for the benefit of the community in the longer term.
“The operation of UistWind would not have been possible were it not for the willingness of the MoD and QinetiQ’s personnel to work with the community to identify and implement solutions that allow the wind farm to co-exist with their radar technology.”
Mustapha Hocine, Chair of North Uist Development Company (Trading) Limited, said: “We are very grateful for the strong working relationship that has been developed and look forward to working with the MoD and QinetiQ during the lifetime of UistWind.”
UistWind has launched an online Community Benefit Survey, to scope the community’s ideas on how to effectively distribute the community benefit funds generated from the UistWind turbines in the longer term.
Though the community benefit fund will not be generated immediately, it is considered important to have a plan ready for when funds become available in future years – so that investment can be targeted in line with the wishes of the community.
UistWind is a community project by North Uist Development Company (Trading), constructing two 900kW turbines in North Uist, at Criongrabhal near Clachan-na-Luib.
The project is due to be operational by October and currently has both turbines in place with one of them fully commissioned and generating power.
It aims to generate more than £2 million over the project’s lifetime of 22 years – with profits going back to the community via NUDC’s charitable activities.
The Community Benefit Survey can be accessed via SurveyMonkey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/WVJKMCP and closes on Tuesday, September 10. The responses will inform the Community Investment Plan and will include all the results of the survey.
Dr Ameena Camps, Project Delivery Manager with North Uist Development Company, urged people to take part in the survey.
She said: “So far we have gathered some of your valuable ideas at the North Uist Highland Games and Agricultural Show, as well as the children’s views during our fun filled day at Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath, but we need as much input as possible to create your Community Investment Plan.”
The survey is anonymous and asks for identification only by postcode and age group.
It asks how people would like NUDC to administer the funds, to rank what they most like about living in Uist and what they would most like to improve. Suggested areas for improvement include business support, career/job opportunities, care and support, entertainment/activities, housing, learning opportunities/education and transport. There is also an option to select ‘other’ and put forward a suggestion of their own.
The survey asks what people would like the Community Benefit Fund to be spent on and
respondents are also asked how funding should be prioritised – by location/distance from the turbines, by the biggest positive impact on the population/economy/wellbeing or by cost.
UistWind has stressed that, due to the financial structure of the project, returns will be minimal for the first few years but will accelerate further into the project. The Community Investment Plan will be updated in future years and will be made available on the UistWind website.
The good news this week is that we have a turbine!
The construction of T2 is now complete and we think it’s looking fabulous. A wonderful sight after the many years of hard struggle that it took to get to this point.
The other news is that our struggles are not quite over. Our other turbine is not up yet because its concrete base has not met ENERCON standards, on testing, and will have to be redone.
ENERCON are arranging to have the foundation rebuilt and will be moving as quickly as they can to ensure UistWind meets the Feed-In-Tariff deadline of 30 September 2019, so time is still on our side to get both turbines operational by October.
ENERCON confirmed: “Our contractors carried out further testing on their foundation base at turbine 1 and the results were not to ENERCON standards. Due to this, the contractor has initiated works to remove the current base and replace with a base that meets the correct specifications. We will, as a matter of due diligence, undertake further testing at the neighbouring foundation base at turbine 2, which has already passed industry standard testing, to ensure that it is also up to ENERCON standards.”
Earlier this year, UistWind was shortlisted for Best Community Energy Project in the Highlands and Islands Renewable Energy Awards 2019. Part of the selection criteria was about how projects had overcome any barriers they had faced.
At the time, our Project Delivery Manager, Ameena Camps, said: “This project really is an example of triumphing over adversity, with numerous obstacles overcome during the many years of development and, once the project is operational, it will be generating significant benefits to the North Uist community.”
Never a truer word said, Ameena!
This project will be transformational to the economy of North Uist, aiming to generate £2.33million for the community over its lifetime, and we look forward to bringing you the pictures of T1 alongside T2, once the base has been redone to allow the second turbine to be assembled.
Thanks to you all for your continued support.
Members of the public are being invited to a social event in North Uist on Monday night (May 27), to hear about progress with the UistWind project, currently under construction (pictured), and give their views on how the community should spend the future profits from the wind farm.
The UistWind Construction BBQ is being held at Claddach Kirkibost, from 7pm to 9.30pm and is being hosted by North Uist Development Company, who are delivering the UistWind project for the benefit of the community.
NUDC said the barbecue is a chance for everyone to “eat, drink and be merry” to celebrate the community’s success at raising the money they needed to enable the wind farm project to go ahead, as well as to gauge views on the best use of the eventual profits.
It is also being held as an opportunity to hear from turbine manufacturers Enercon, who will be coming on site on June 3 to prepare to lift the turbines into place.
Enercon’s project manager, Richard Biggs, will be speaking and answering questions.
Two 900kW turbines are to go up at Criongrabhal, near Clachan-na-Luib, with the wind farm due to be operational by October this year. UistWind, a North Uist Development Company (Trading) project, aims to generate more than £105,000 a year – or £2.33million over the project’s lifetime of 22 years – with the profits going straight back to the community via NUDC’s charitable activities.
Dr Ameena Camps, Project Delivery Manager with North Uist Development Company, said everyone was welcome to come along, adding: “Come along, meet the experts, ask your questions about what’s going to happen, and enjoy a nice evening with a barbecue.”
The event is free of charge and will serve as both an information session and an initial engagement exercise, with further consultation exercises to be held in the months to come.
The event has been made possible by funding from the Scottish Government's Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES). Doors will be open from 6pm for drop-in sessions to chat about the project, the main event is at 7pm and Enercon will be speaking at 7.15pm, followed by the barbecue and informal chat.
Describing progress on the project so far, Ameena said the foundations had been excavated and the steel work was also in place. Road upgrades are mostly finished and the cement pour for the first turbine has been done, with the second turbine pour scheduled for tomorrow (Friday).
Catherine Macleod, Director of NUDC-T, said: “It’s a critical period – it’s quite an anxious time – but this is all for the community benefit fund. The benefit fund won’t be available straight away, but it is important to find out now what the community would like to see their money spent on, ready for when Uist Wind does start creating a profit for the community.
“We will be out and about over the summer to collect ideas, including the North Uist Highland Games and the North Uist Agricultural Show.”
UistWind is a £3.5million project 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.
Kirsty Macleod of the Kirkibost Craft Hub said: “It’s great to have a more relaxed environment to discuss such an important addition to the community and the benefits it will have.”
More than 240 investors contributed to the community fundraiser – the vast majority by buying shares – and raised more than £450,000.
The project will be capitalising on one of the last Feed-In Tariffs and is also thought to be the last Outer Hebrides renewables project that will be able to take up space on the current cable to the mainland, before it is full to capacity and an interconnector is needed.