North Uist WILL get its community-owned wind farm next year, after the fundraising campaign passed the critical mark of £350,000 over the weekend and passed £400,000 on Christmas Eve. The total raised by UistWind – a project driven by the North Uist Development Company (Trading) – was £408,000 by close of play on Monday, December 24.
The project is for two 900kW turbines at Criongrabhal, near Clachan-na-Luib, which will cost around £3.5million to build. Commercial loans are covering most of it but the community still needed to raise a minimum of £350,000 as its equity stake in the project. However, it was experiencing a shortfall, with the share offer languishing at £317,000 in November and financial close looming on December 31. A final fundraising drive was launched early in December and development officers working on the project were greatly encouraged when the share offer hit £345,000 on Wednesday, December 19. By Christmas Eve, though, what was cautious optimism had given way to sheer delight.
Mustapha Hocine, Chair of North Uist Development Company, said:
“It is the best possible Christmas present for North Uist that we have exceeded our target for the community share offer, and that we are now at £400,000. This means that more people will benefit from the target interest rate of 4 per cent and it means that the community benefit will be even greater. But it is important that we keep going right up until 31 December!
“Thank you to everyone who has invested in the project so far. If you haven't signed up yet, please take a look at our website at uistwind.com and watch our video. North Uist needs this transformational project and it will be a superb start to the new year, knowing that we are finally able to turn our dream into a reality.”
UistWind’s 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 ac-tivities. The greater the community’s financial stake, the better the return – so the fundraising ap-peal will be staying open until the last possible moment at the end of the month. The share offer and crowdfunding campaign will both remain open until December 31. Under the share offer, there are a range of benefits including a target return of four per cent on investment. The Crowdfunder offers smaller rewards in exchange for donations – but has no set minimum for investment, unlike the share offer, which begins at £250.
Construction is due to begin at the end of January 2019 and be completed in July 2019 – and the fundraising was only able to continue to this late stage because the bank agreed to a compressed construction schedule in order to help UistWind meet its shortfall. UistWind has full planning permission and a license 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. The project could be the last renewable development in the Outer Hebrides to be built with Feed-In-Tariff support, which provides a cost-based price for the electricity supplied, and is likely to be the last project to be accommodated by the current cable, before it hits capacity. After that, an upgraded connection or a new interconnector will be necessary to allow any more developments.
Most of UistWind’s finance is expected to be covered by a commercial loan of £2.5million from Triodos Bank – a specialist in community renewable energy finance – with a secondary loan of up to £650,000 from the Energy Investment Fund.