Technology: community shared ownership of onshore wind at Binn Eco Park
Location: Glenfarg, Perth and Kinross
CARES funding: £24,000 enablement grant
Glenfarg Renewable Energy Association (GREA) was set up to explore different ways and means of generating electricity locally for the benefit of the local community.
With funding and support from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), the association explored hydro, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, and wind as ways to generate electricity.
A proposal to install a single wind turbine was developed and this progressed to the stage of securing a site, consulting with the public, and securing a grid connection. However, the proposal was made non-viable by the change in the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) introduced by the UK Government.
Project aims and objectives
Having developed a scheme for onshore wind, GREA remained keen to pursue this option. GREA was approached by Green Cat Renewables, developers of a four-turbine scheme (4 x 2.35MW) at nearby Binn farm, known as Binn Eco Park Wind Farm, which was in the final stages of planning and about to commence on site. Also keen to work with GREA were the landowners of Binn Group and the four community councils involved in planning discussions: Abernethy & District; Glenfarg; Bridge of Earn; and Auchtermuchty & Strathmiglo. They were supported by a shared ownership specialist from Local Energy Scotland, which manages CARES on behalf of the Scottish Government.
GREA created a brief for the consultancy expertise required to assess the financial and legal aspects of the Binn turbines with a view to encouraging community ownership. Two consultancies with expertise in these areas were appointed and their findings reported to the joint group of local community councils.
At this stage, the developer was already on site and making good progress with the four-turbine scheme. Because of the change in FiT, the four-turbine scheme was split into two: one commercial and the other for community benefit. A community benefit company (BenCom) with FiT approval was put in place to own two of the turbines. The BenCom, called Our Community Energy Ltd (OCE), had parallel organisational arrangements to the commercial scheme and a contract with the developer to build and manage the turbines.
Outcomes and achievements
Cedric Wilkins, chair of GREA, said that “one of the key outcomes was to help clarify what was meant by community shared ownership in the specific context of OCE at Binn farm. Two views prevailed within the community: a risk averse view that was only keen to engage to the extent of accepting community benefit payments, and a less risk averse view that wished to accept the offer of share ownership in OCE and benefit from the full income stream generated. The mechanism by which the community might take ownership of the shares of OCE has yet to be settled in detail.”
Cedric adds the project’s “main challenge was to understand what the community wanted from the scheme and how that could be best be delivered. In the end, an extension to the original CARES award was agreed. This extension allowed us to appoint Foundation Scotland to establish a fund to act as a conduit for the income earned by OCE.
“The Binn Wind Turbine Community Fund is managed by Foundation Scotland on behalf of OCE and evaluates and awards the OCE profits to local community applicants. This fund operates for three of the four community councils. One community council absented itself from that arrangement in favour of an arrangement to receive funds into a local development trust for the benefit of that community council area.”
The overall aims of the Binn Wind Turbine Community Fund are to support activity which will sustain and develop the life of the community and ensure that the area is an attractive and vibrant place to live, work and visit. To achieve this, the fund will support charitable activities that:
- promote safe, cohesive, resilient communities and encourage community activity
- maintain and develop community facilities and assets
- reduce inequalities faced by residents and communities
- support healthy lives and well-being for all.
Applications which do not clearly meet one of the above outcomes are still welcome. The outcomes are simply a guide as to how applications may be prioritised by the decision-making panel. Grant requests to support a wide range of costs and activities will be considered, such as the costs of equipment, staff or sessional workers, consultations, running costs for local groups, maintenance, or refurbishment of community facilities and more.
In addition to the project’s main challenge Cedric identified above, he adds that “one of the learning points has been that there is no single answer to the question of what constitutes community shared ownership. A variety of different approaches will be required, dovetailed to the specific local situation.”
Mark Brennan, Shared Ownership Manager at Local Energy Scotland, added, “I’m delighted to see this significant project come to fruition. It’s a credit to the skills and determination of the members of GREA, the local community councils, their advisors, and the team at Green Cat Renewables. Best of luck to OCE and to the Binn Eco Park wind turbines.”
Published March 2023.