The four crofting townships campaigning for the right to develop community-owned wind farms in Stornoway have announced their intention to bid in the Contract for Differences auction in May.
Their announcement comes a week after Energy Minister Claire Perry confirmed when the next round of renewables subsidy applications would open, slightly later than had been anticipated.
The four townships which will be bidding are Sandwick North Street, Sandwick East Street, Mel-bost & Branahuie and Aignish – which have all lodged Section 50b applications with the Crofting Commission for permission to go ahead with the developments on their common grazings.
It is believed to be the first time that any community organisations will have put in a bid for subsidy in the Contract for Differences scheme, which was set up primarily for multinationals, to help offset the extra costs that come with developing new technologies.
The townships will be bidding in the ‘Remote Island Wind’ pot in the CfD auction and will be go-ing head-to-head against bigger schemes planned for the Isle of Lewis. Lewis Wind Power (French multinational EDF in partnership with Wood Group) will be looking for a subsidy for their Storno-way and Uisenis wind farms, while Forsa Energy will be looking for a subsidy for Tolsta.
Altogether, the four crofting townships hope to develop 21 turbines, with a total output of 105MW. Although that comprises four different schemes, they all meet or exceed the 5MW threshold for eli-gibility into the CfD scheme.
North Street is planning one turbine of 5MW, while Aignish is planning two (10MW total), Mel-bost eight (40MW) and East Street 10 (50MW). The locations of the turbines exactly match the ap-proved locations for 21 of the 36 turbines belonging to LWP’s Stornoway wind farm.
There is uncertainty about how LWP intend to proceed in the auction, as they have just submitted a scoping document which signals their intention to put in a totally new planning application. Accord-ing to that scoping document, they are radically revising their Stornoway scheme – they now want 33 bigger turbines in different locations to those already approved.
However, the townships are encouraged that rivals EDF already have full planning consent for their original scheme as they want to put their turbines in the same places.
Agents for the townships have been working on the necessary bird studies for nearly two years now and expect the study for the latest breeding season will be completed in August.
As soon as this is completed, the final preparations will be made ahead of submitting applications for planning consent to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
Aignish, Melbost and East Street expect to be submitting their applications by October, while North Street hope to be in a position to put theirs in earlier.
They expect to have a decision from the planning authority in plenty of time to get their bids ready for the CfD auction in May.
Sandwick North Street representative Rhoda Mackenzie said the four townships were pleased to be on the cusp of applying for planning consent – and hopeful that all the battling will turn out to have been worthwhile, with a successful bid in May.
“We’re positive we’ll meet the deadline because we’ve followed all the processes up until now and we’re optimistic because there is existing planning consent for these areas.
“There shouldn’t be any problem with planning permission being granted so we’re confident that we’ll have it all through by the end of this year or the very beginning of next year at the very lat-est.”
If successful at the CfD auction, Rhoda stressed that all the profits would go into a community ben-efit fund for distribution throughout the whole of the Western Isles.
“We want to spread this, to invest in the economy of the entire Western Isles, from the Butt to Barra. The profit won’t be kept by the four townships.”
She also stressed that the size of community benefit funds – for investment in good causes – is at least 10 times greater when wind farms are community owned as opposed to corporate.
“It’s a very minimum of 10 times more if we own these 21 turbines, compared to EDF. So if the townships get control of these turbines, we will be able to put more than £5million a year into the Western Isles economy, compared to about £525,000 from EDF.
“We could do a lot with that money.
“We’ve got massive cutbacks from government. We’ve got a black hole to fill. We’ve got social problems to address. There’s gaps in social care. We need to address the problems of the ageing population, social isolation and young people leaving. We need to be more innovative. We need to invest in different technologies to reverse the trend of depopulation.
“It’s vitally important that the Western Isles develop these renewables projects for themselves.
“The rental income that Stornoway Trust and the crofter shareholders will get from these projects will be same whoever builds them. We would pay at least as much rent to the Trust as EDF would. The huge different is in the community benefit.
“With us, all the profits would be put into a charitable trust and distributed via a scoring matrix.We would have a development plan and we would consult with the wider population about what they felt its aims should be and the main key areas for investment.
“Why should we be fighting for an interconnector if it’s going to be nothing but a power lead for multinationals like EDF and Forsa? This is what we’ve been aiming for.
“Planning is a long process but there’s been working going on behind the scenes for years. We’ve been wor.
king our way through that process and we’re coming to the end.
“We’re at the point where we’re collating all the statutory information we require. We’re happy with the information that we’ve gathered. We feel we’ve met the requirements to submit a full plan-ning application and we expect it to be a smooth process.
“We look forward to submitting our bid to the CfD auction in May.”
Submission of planning applications will be a significant step forward for the four townships, who have attracted national media attention – including coverage from Channel 4 news – for their cam-paign for the right to develop renewables on their land.
Their fight with Lewis Wind Power which will be determined by the Scottish Land Court – it will decide on LWP’s Section 19a application for approval as well as the townships’ application to the Crofting Commission under Section 50b – is already being regarded as a test case.
In June, the government (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) published the results of a consultation exercise, which it carried out last year, confirming that there would be a separate category of Remote Island Wind in the CfD auction.
That announcement, that onshore wind projects would be able to qualify in the auction for ‘less es-tablished technologies’ if they were located on islands 10km or more off the UK mainland, fulfilled a pledge made in the Conservative manifesto last year. It was seen as a critical step for the future of renewables developments in the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney.
For more information contact:
Rhoda Mackenzie, 07765407289, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Laing, 07825200110, email@example.com