Helensburgh Looks to Renewables in Innovative Funding Solution

Community Wind Farm could generate over £5 million for community initiatives

Helensburgh could soon benefit from a windfall totalling more than £5million* over 20 years if an innovative community-led partnership gains the support of the local population.

Helensburgh Renewables, a community owned trading company originally set up with the backing of Helensburgh Community Council and now an independent entity, has outlined plans for a Community Wind Farm designed to generate long-term funding for numerous cash-strapped local projects and initiatives.

Inspired by the success of community wind farms elsewhere in Scotland, the Helensburgh plan would see five turbines sited on a parcel of land above Helensburgh reservoirs, outwith Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Benefitting from moderately high wind speeds and proximity to both a main road and an electricity substation, the site has no special designations, is relatively remote from all but a very few dwellings and, with much of Helensburgh facing seaward, presents no significant visual impact for most of the town's residents.

Crucially, the wind farm would be managed and operated for the benefit of the community, and a partnership with wind farm experts Green Cat Renewables Ltd and landowners Luss Estates Company will ensure that the project can be developed without any financial outlay by the community.

Helensburgh Renewables are preparing a full public consultation scheduled to take place later this year, with the wind farm potentially going live as early as 2015 subject to planning permission.

Ian Fraser, Managing Director of Helensburgh Renewables, said: "Helensburgh Community Wind Farm has been inspired by similar community projects on the Isle of Gigha, at Fintry and, more recently, in Neilston, all of which have secured a growing income stream for their local communities for the next 20 to 25 years, whilst reducing carbon footprints. This is a once in a generation opportunity to generate much needed funds for vital local services and initiatives throughout our town and community.

"Unlike commercial wind farms, Helensburgh Community Wind Farm will be for and by the community, and I would urge anyone who is interested in the future of Helensburgh as a community to engage with us when we undertake our full public consultation this year."

Gavin Catto, Director of Green Cat Renewables Ltd, commented: "This is an exciting new model for community involvement in renewable energy projects, with the community being a full partner alongside the landowner and an experienced wind energy company. This partnership model means that the community will gain far more financially than in a normal commercial development, but the project will still benefit from the experience and commercial drive of an experienced developer."

Simon Miller, Chief Executive of Luss Estates Company, added: "Given the tough economic climate, this model is an excellent way to fund many invaluable projects in Helensburgh, and having been approached by the community Luss Estates is delighted to facilitate and support this innovative solution by partnering Helensburgh Renewables and Green Cat Renewables. We look forward to working closely with the community as the project progresses."

Scoping reports are scheduled to be completed in January, with detailed plans to be outlined later in the year as Helensburgh Renewables undertakes a full public consultation prior to planning permission being sought from Argyll & Bute Council. With the backing of the community, the project could be up, running and generating income by 2015.

* Based on average wind speeds, anticipated wholesale electricity prices and the returns of similarly sized projects.