By Martin Kelly
Scottish communities are being paid over £5m every year from windfarm operators according to a national register.
The figure was revealed by industry body Scottish Renewables which described the community benefit as “fantastic” and claimed the amount was about to grow as more operators signed up.
Speaking prior to the Onshore Wind Conference in Glasgow yesterday Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager for Scottish Renewables, said:
“It’s fantastic to see that onshore wind developers are working directly with communities to provide local causes in Scotland with more than £5 million in voluntary funding every year. We believe this figure will be much higher as we encourage every developer to sign up their schemes and as new schemes become operational.”
The Scottish Government Register of Community Benefit from Renewables was launched in September 2012 by First Minister Alex Salmond and provides a central base for developers to log details of the support they provide to local communities.
Mr Blamire added: “Community benefit isn’t just a financial transaction, it can be provided through a variety of means. In some cases the relationship between developer and community goes even further into commercial joint ventures and even complete community ownership.
“We know our members are providing communities with a range of opportunities to invest in projects and initiatives that really matter to them. For example, we’ve seen major investments in local museums, support for baby and toddler groups, college bursaries and even funding for a community transport scheme.”
Amongst benefits recorded by the register included the Clyde wind farm community fund which awarded the Biggar Museum Trust a £620,000 grant and the Griffin Fund which awarded £100,000 to help towards restoring the Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy.
Carrick Futures was established from two wind farms in South Ayrshire and funding has been used to provide bursaries for people living within the funding area to attend their local college and gain new skills on a turbine technician course. The fund has also helped insulate homes, provide rural skills training for local residents and developed a local tourism imitative and website to promote the wider Carrick area.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “It is clear to see the huge benefits that windfarms, and the renewable energy sector, are bringing to communities across Scotland.
“As well as providing jobs and employment opportunities for our people, they provide a huge boost for our economy.
“Industry figures show that Scotland’s renewable energy sector has attracted £2.8billion of investment in Scotland since 2009.
“This government is focused on supporting the growth of local and community ownership of renewable energy so that communities can share the rewards of Scotland’s vast natural resources.”
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “If Scotland is to meet its 100% renewable ambition, it’s vital that, where possible, local communities are given the opportunity to benefit too.
“One benefit we’d like to see more of in Scotland is direct ownership of wind turbines by communities. Such schemes have helped drive the roll-out of renewables elsewhere, so it’s only right we do the same.”