Residents of the Isle of Raasay are looking to raise £650,000 through a share offer to develop the renewables projects, which will together provide 520,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy and save 127 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
Raasay Community Renewables, set up in September 2020, has already raised more than £300,000 of grant funding but further capital is needed to bring the initiative to completion.
The new share offer, which went live this week, has already raised £22,900 towards the target.
Estimates suggest the two run-of-river schemes – at Inverarish Burn and Mine Burn – will generate an annual surplus of around £6,000 from 2024, rising each year to around £28,000 in 2031 and beyond, which will be used to support community and environmental projects.
The team will work with residents to identify local uses for any electricity that cannot be exported to the national grid.
Initially, this will provide energy to dry wood as part of a fuel initiative on the island, and there are plans to provide charging points for electric vehicles.
Raasay, a small island located off Skye, is home to 170 people and a wide variety of wildlife – including the rare endemic Raasay vole.
The seven-mile long outpost is instantly regognisable from afar due to the distinctive flat-topped outline of its highest hill, Dun Caan, the remains of a volcanic plug.
The island’s first ‘legal’ distillery opened in 2017, producing hand-crafted gin and whisky.
One of its most famous sons was the acclaimed Gaelic poet and teacher Sorley Maclean, who has been credited with reinvigorating and modernising the language.
It’s hoped the new hydro schemes will provide both environmentally sustainable power and long-term financial resilience for the island, funding projects that will improve residents’ lives.
Ross Gillies, from Raasay Community Renewables, said: “The community share offer is a fantastic opportunity to invest in social and environmental causes and see a financial return for your support in the years to come.
“The focus will be on ensuring that the funds are distributed in a way that meets the community’s needs, wants and priorities, particularly with regard to supporting environmentally beneficial projects.”
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “A community hydro scheme has been a long time in the making for Raasay, and it was great to see the work starting on forestry.
“I know there is a lot of work to do – not least in raising funding – but it’s exciting to see this progress.
“I hope there will be widespread interest and the community will be able to reach their funding target in time.”
The minimum investment for Community Contributor members – individuals who live in the Raasay postcode area – is £125, while Contributor Members must put in at least £375.
The maximum investment is £65,000.
More information about the Raasay community hydro share offer, which closes on 23 February, can be found on the Crowdfunder website.