A Hebridean island is set to generate more than £2m for its people after construction started on its community wind farm.
Green energy will soon be produced on North Uist after the community raised more than £452,000 to get the project off the ground - more than £100,000 above its target.
More than 240 islanders invested directly in the project, with most buying shares in the scheme.
It is expected that the two 900kW turbines at Criongrabhal, near Clachan-na-Luib, will raise more than £2million over the project’s lifetime for the community to invest in good causes.
The start of construction on North Uist, which has a population of 1,271, brings to a close the challenging process of securing funding for the project.
Ameena Camps, local development officer with North Uist Development Company, added: “We have had to jump over far too many hurdles to reach this point. The months of sleepless nights and endless workdays to meet the needs of the project have finally been worthwhile.
“Thanks goes to all who have helped during this complicated process. Tenacity has paid off – we did it! Now on to construction.”
Mustapha Hocine, chair of North Uist Development Company (Trading) Ltd, added: “I am delighted that we have reached this key stage in the development of the North Uist Renewable project.
“I echo the many thanks that have been stated elsewhere, but in particular want to pay tribute to the unwavering support of my fellow directors of NUDC, the North Uist community and the over 240 investors who have made this project possible.”
Commercial loans are covering most of the cost of the £3.5million project but the community still needed to raise a minimum equity stake of £350,000.
That total was languishing at £317,000 in November but the final fundraising push saw it pass £400,000 on Christmas Eve.
UistWind is financed mainly by Triodos Bank UK, the ethical bank with specialist experience in community renewable energy projects.
A secondary loan was secured from the Energy Investment Fund, a Scottish Government Fund managed and delivered by the Scottish Investment Bank.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government has played a part in making this important community project at Criongrabhal happen, by providing £575,095 of funding from our Energy Investment Fund towards the capital cost of the project.
“The community has also benefitted from important support through our Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES).
“As someone who believes that such investments can be transformative for communities, it is absolutely fantastic to see the local island communities, and indeed communities and investors across Scotland, come together to support the project and help them exceed their equity stake.
“The team at North Uist Development Company has worked tirelessly to overcome a number of challenges and I want to congratulate them for all their hard work and their achievements to date. I wish them every success with the construction phase of the project and look forward to seeing the turbines in action – benefitting the local North Uist community for years to come.”
The project is to be built with Feed-In-Tariff support, which provides a set price for the electricity supplied which is index linked, and could be the last renewable development in the Outer Hebrides to be built with this support.
The Feed-In-Tariff deadline is September 30, 2019, so the wind farm should be operational by October this year.
The 1.8MW renewables project will be owned by the community and aims to generate more than £105,000 a year – or £2.33million over the project’s projected lifespan of 22 years – with the profits going straight back to the community via North Uist Development Company’s charitable activities.
Due to the financial structure of the project, the community returns will be small for the first few years but will accelerate thereafter.
UistWind has full planning permission and a licence to sell its electricity to the National Grid. There is also space reserved on the current cable for its power to be exported to the mainland.
After that, an upgraded connection or interconnector will be necessary to allow any more developments.