Independent renewables can power for million homes

More than �66 million was invested in independent schemes in 2013. Picture: Ian Rutherford
More than �66 million was invested in independent schemes in 2013. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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New independent renewable projects in Scotland have seen a 50 per cent increase in a year, and now produce enough energy to power one million homes, according to a new report.

More than £66 million was invested in independent schemes – projects not operated by the six largest power companies – in 2013.

This generated around £234m of electricity, up from £191m in 2012, according to Smartest-
Energy, a buyer of power generated by the independent sector.

Trade body Scottish Renewables said the rise showed independent electricity generators – including communities, businesses, farmers and public bodies – were increasingly taking their energy future into their own hands.

SmartestEnergy’s Energy Entrepreneurs Report 2014, published today, shows that 169 new independent renewable projects started in Scotland in 2013, up 50 per cent on the number of new-starts in 2012.

An estimated £66.7m has been invested in the commercial-scale projects, taking the total number of schemes of 50kW capacity or more north of the Border to 509.

Scotland now accounts for more than a quarter (28.3 per cent) of independent generation capacity in Great Britain.

The Highlands and Islands and Aberdeenshire are together responsible for more than 38 per cent.

Total capacity in Scotland has grown by 25.6 per cent to 1,762MW, enough to generate £234.5m worth of wholesale electricity a year and power more than a million households.

One of the latest projects is the £11.5m Loch Carnan community windfarm which is generating profits for reinvestment in South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay by Stòras Uibhist, the community company which led Scotland’s biggest land buyout in 2006.

This year, the wind farm is expected to generate £2m gross revenue for the island community.

Huw Francis, chief executive of Stòras Uibhist, said: “This is the biggest community wind farm in Scotland with 6.9MW of capacity – but there has not been any real criticism of the turbines because people can see that the revenue they generate is staying in the community and helping us to maintain and enhance the environment of our islands.”

Stephanie Clark, policy manager for Scottish Renewables, said: “The Stòras Uibhist scheme is one of many excellent independent projects in Scotland.

“More communities, businesses and farmers across Scotland are grasping the opportunity to take their energy future into their own hands.

“There are many persuasive reasons why renewable energy is increasingly popular: lower energy costs in the future; a reduced carbon footprint; potential income from selling power into the grid; and, as in Stòras Uibhist, a positive and direct impact on the local community.”

Iain Robertson, head of generation for SmartestEnergy, which buys electricity from more than 100 projects in Scotland, said: “With over £1m a week being invested in these schemes, the independent sector is making an important contribution to the Scottish economy and providing valuable work for contractors and suppliers.”

The farming sector showed the strongest growth in numbers of projects with a rise of over 83 per cent since the last report, outstripping the significant rise seen in Great Britain as a whole.

The Borders is the fastest- growing Scottish region in terms of numbers of new sites with a 140 per cent increase.

Although most of the 509 independent commercial-scale sites are onshore wind, at 294, hydro accounts for 131 projects. Landfill gas (42 sites), solar PV (17 sites) and biomass (12) are also significant technologies.

Onshore wind accounts for 84 per cent of total capacity in Scotland (1.47GW) followed by landfill gas (6 per cent) and hydro (5 per cent).

Scotland is home to more than half (53 per cent) of commercial-scale independent onshore wind in Great Britain.

An estimated £248m has been invested in the 294 wind projects to date, an average per project of £846,109.