Energy bill hikes see thousands sign up to back new Ayrshire wind farm

Soaring energy costs have spurred more than 4,500 people to sign up to invest in a new wind farm in Scotland that promises backers savings on their bills.

Ripple Energy, behind the planned 18.8-megawatt wind farm at Kirk Hill, Ayrshire, said there had been a surge in interest in the project over the past month, during which many households will have seen their bills rocket.

The offer to buy shares in Kirk Hill, which Ripple said would be the world’s largest consumer-owned wind farm, closes at midnight on Tuesday with construction expected to start shortly after.

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The co-operative membership scheme enables individuals to benefit from lower energy costs in return for their backing. Members of the public can invest as little as £25 to own part of the eight-turbine project that is expected to generate enough electricity to power 20,000 households.

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Ripple said recent forecasts suggest that electricity prices could remain high until 2030, and if that proved to be the case, Kirk Hill members’ payback time could be just six years from when the wind farm starts generating.

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Sarah Merrick, chief executive of Ripple Energy, said: "Owning part of a wind farm is the easiest way to protect yourself from future energy price spikes. Wind delivers clean, stable priced power for the long term. We want as many people as possible to benefit, whilst also reducing their carbon footprint.

"The current energy price crisis is hurting households across the country. With Ripple, people take control of their energy costs, creating a greener future at the same time."

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An artist's impression of the forthcoming Kirk Hill wind farm in Ayrshire. Picture: contributed.

Owners get savings applied to their electricity bill that reflect the difference between the market price for electricity and the wind farm's “low and stable” operating costs. Ripple says that when market prices are high, savings are high. When the market price is lower, savings fall too. The net effect is to help stabilise bills.

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An investment of around £1,700 will purchase enough of the wind farm to power the typical UK home, the energy firm added.

Ripple's first wind farm, Graig Fatha in South Wales, completed construction in December. Its 907 owners are expected to save around £275 on their electricity bill in its first year of operation.

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Powering up

Ahead of the COP26 climate change summit last year, the Scottish Government said it was looking double its onshore wind capacity by 2030. A draft policy statement outlined plans to add eight to 12 gigawatts (GW) of capacity compared to current levels of 8.4GW.

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Repowering of existing projects that are reaching the end of their operating life and potentially installing more powerful turbines is expected to play a significant role in increasing capacity.

The UK government recently set out its ambition to boost domestic energy generation as part of the long-awaited energy security strategy.

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It plans a major increase in nuclear power with as many as eight reactors developed, up to 50 GW of offshore wind, and a fivefold increase in solar power from today’s levels.

On onshore wind, the UK government said it would consult on developing partnerships in England with a “limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for guaranteed lower energy bills”.

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