A new community wind farm in the Borders will be the first in the UK to fund homes for social rental.
Named Fishermen Three, the 7.5-megawatt scheme is a joint venture between Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA) and renewables support charity Community Energy Scotland (CES).
It is hoped the three-turbine scheme, at Hoprigshiels, Cockburnspath, will generate around £30 million over the next 25 years by supplying power to the National Grid.
Fisherman Three will export nearly 25 million kilowatt-hours of green electricity each year – enough to supply about 5,900 households.
BHA will receive two-thirds of the income, estimated at £20m, which will finance the building of 500 affordable homes. CES’s £10m share will go towards supporting local groups across Scotland to develop and benefit from renewable energy projects.Borders community wind farm to bankroll 500 new homesThe scheme is backed by two main funders – Triodos Bank and the Scottish Government’s Renewable Energy Investment Fund.
Helen Forsyth, chief executive of BHA, said: “The idea for the wind farm came when BHA realised that we had to be innovative in order to solve the dilemma of how to keep building new homes for social rental, which are so badly needed in this area, at a time when funding for new housing through traditional channels was in decline.
“The wind farm will provide BHA with a reliable, predictable, low-maintenance source of income that will allow us to build a steady stream of new affordable homes at a time when services are all too often being cut.”
BHA has adopted a number of eco-friendly initiatives, including fitting 700 homes with solar panels and investing in new heating systems that cut fuel bills for tenants.
Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of CES, added: “In recent years we have helped hundreds of community groups to take forward green energy projects, but like many charities we struggle to cover our own costs. We are delighted to have been able to work in partnership with BHA to develop our own joint project.
“The UK energy system is changing and we want to make sure that communities are at the forefront of the opportunities that this will create for new low-carbon energy developments.”
Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse, who unveiled the scheme, said: “Locally owned renewables in areas such as the Borders have the potential to help drive social, economic and environmental change at a local level.”