We’re feeling very proud at Sharenergy as next week sees the launch of Scotland’s first wholly co-operatively owned wind turbine. Dingwall Wind Co-op will be hosting a launch party on Saturday 12 July for the 175 members of the co-op. It seems incredible that in 2014 this will be the first Scottish wind turbine in full co-operative ownership, given that Scotland is close to getting 50% of its electricity through renewables – most of it from wind.
In recent months we’ve seen a surge in interest from landowners in going down the community owned route rather than pursuing a wind project alone. Very often they’ve done the hard part themselves in securing planning permission and grid connection agreements. We’re helping them open up the opportunity for their local community to share the benefits the turbine will bring. The resulting co-ops are good value for landowners and locals alike – we can keep most of the money generated in the local economy.
Our latest such project to come to share offer is Wester Derry Wind Co-op, in Glen Isla near Perth. It’s another 250kW turbine using the same ultra-reliable WTN turbine used at Dingwall. Planning permission has been granted, the grid connection paid for, the Feed in Tariff fixed at the current rate, HMRC approval for tax relief granted – and we’ve now put in a firm order so the turbine is being made in Germany as we speak. The total the group need to raise is £800,000, with good projected returns. It’s a rather sparsely populated area so the co-op welcomes members from further afield, in Scotland or the wider UK - see http://www.westerderrywind.org.uk for details.
Not all our work starts with landowners of course – most of our projects are led by community volunteers wanting to put their town on the map. We’re really keen on co-operative principle 6: co-ops help other co-ops and in the small market town of Leominster, in Herefordshire, we’re seeing that in action. A new primary school is being built and will be ready for the start of the 2014/2015 school year, complete with a 90kW solar array owned by Leominster Sunrise Co-operative. The new co-operative has been supported by development funds from Leominster Community Solar, whose 50kW solar array on the local leisure centre was one of the first solar co-ops in the UK. The new panels on the school will save around 720 tonnes of carbon dioxide and save the school at least £2500 on their energy bills. The Leominster Sunrise share offer is now live - see http://www.leominstersunrise.org.uk
Energy Minister Ed Davey recently wrote to schools encouraging them to put solar on their roofs, but how many schools will have the time, capacity or skills, let alone the finance to make this happen? We’re keen to get the word out to head teachers that the co-operative model could help them to deliver this without distracting them from their already busy task of running the school. In fact we think a solar co-op can help attract wider support for the school – it’s certainly a new way to engage parents and grandparents in the fabric and future of the school. Above all we hope school-based co-ops will inspire a new solar generation, brought up with renewable energy technologies and enjoying all the benefits that co-operative ownership can unlock for the local community.