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Small village has big plans for £5m energy project windfall

Stirlingshire village is testbed for new renewables funding model that could deliver benefits to communities across Scotland

PRLog - Aug. 11, 2011 - GLASGOW, U.K. -- Thornhill, in Stirlingshire is hoping to take part in a novel community wind energy project that could generate income for the community of up to £5million.

The 640-strong village is involved in a venture that could provide locals with lower electricity bills for up to 25 years as well as delivering income for a range of community projects.

Among those under consideration are grants for villagers struggling to pay gas and electricity bills to help the Government reach its target of ending fuel poverty by 2016.

Other ideas being discussed include the possible purchase and management of a local café, a cinema club, an all-weather sports pitch and the funding of further and higher education bursaries for local students as well as the funding of other renewable energy projects around the village.

Villagers are also discussing the possibility of employing a full-time secretary to help co-ordinate the work of local organisations. The project would generate income for local contractors and rental income from one of the turbines will be donated to a local charity.

The community is seeking planning consent for a 500kw turbine that would be located at the Braes of Boquhapple farm, overlooking the village. It would be sited alongside three others owned, respectively by the owner of the land, external investors and Glasgow-based renewables company EML Group.

Participation in the scheme was approved by members of the Thornhill Community Trust, a body established in 2004 to set up local projects, last September and later by a village meeting convened by the Community Council.

Jelle Muylle, Treasurer of the Trust, said it was a novel and imaginative way of using renewable energy to benefit the local community. “People in the village are really excited about the possibilities that this project can provide,” he said.

“As everyone knows, accessing public funding for community projects is becoming much tougher in the current economic climate. If our community becomes less financially dependent on public funding for its projects, then there will be more public funding left for those communities that perhaps need it more than us.”

Energy produced by the four 50m turbines would be enough to power around 1000 homes. Every home in the village could benefit from electricity at a reduced price for up to 25 years with the excess being sold by EML on the commercial market.

The community has access to 100% finance for the purchase of its turbine, meaning that it is not obliged to provide any up-front funding. It is estimated that, after costs, it will receive an annual windfall of up to £150,000 for the first 15 years of the 25 year project with income increasing thereafter.

George Murray, owner of Braes of Boquhapple farm said he had the option of seeking planning consent for a purely commercial wind farm on his land but was determined to pursue an option which would engage the community and provided it with an income.  

“This unique ownership and management model benefits mutually all of the stakeholders and creates a more certain future for the village,” he said.

Alan Powell, CEO of the EML Group, said: "The benefits of this scheme to the local community cannot be overestimated. As well as creating a sustainable community, it removes reliance on local authority grants and other hand-outs."

“It will also help to tackle fuel poverty, increase wealth in the area and keep the local landowner’s business in the area by making it self-sustaining beyond typical income streams.”

Powell added: “It is very encouraging that villagers in Thornhill are so supportive of an energy project proposed by a Scottish company, not an international conglomerate that is purely profit driven.”

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