Atmos Consulting has welcomed the recent £60 million boost for community-scale renewables committed by the Edinburgh-based Green Investment Bank.
Dr Greg Fullarton, the consultancy’s Inverness-based Regional Director for the Highlands, said community scale projects may ‘not have the glamour of the big offshore and infrastructure projects’, but they do bring the benefits of renewable energy development to the grass roots level.
The £60m will provide equity funding of between £1m and £10m for a broad range of community-scale renewable construction projects including run-of-river hydro-power, onshore wind on brownfield sites such as industrial estates and biogas projects including anaerobic digestion and landfill gas.
Fullarton said: “They have the potential to regenerate communities starved of other sources of funding. By focussing on upfront build and operation costs, rather than subsidising generation, the bank is removing barriers to development, offering access to long-term income for rural communities and empowering them to realise local natural assets..
“Small scale wind farms are already delivering benefits to many towns and villages across the Highlands, and the process involved in gaining consent is a well-trodden path, with new applicants learning from their predecessors.
“Indeed, a comprehensive and well-prepared application should provide all the factual information needed to support decision-makers in reaching a confident conclusion”.
Fullarton also said that boom in small hydro projects is far from over. There may be a bit of a ‘gold rush’ to take advantage of best tariff rates, but even at lower rates, Atmos expects that run of river hydro schemes will continue to be attractive in the longer term – despite recent gloomy forecasts from Scottish Renewables.
Indeed, the firm has invested in developing a noise database of hydro schemes across Scotland so that new applicants can benefit from their experience.
Meanwhile, the independent environmental specialist has continued its expansion in the north of Scotland with the addition to three new team members – less than six months after Dr Greg Fullarton joined the consultancy to head up the Inverness office.
The team he is building now includes senior environmental consultant Sarah Rauch-Lynch, principal environmental consultant Pete Nairne and graduate ecologist Kirsty MacDonald.
Sarah and Pete join Atmos from engineering services firm Jacobs, where both had been seconded to BEAR Scotland in Inverness. Kirsty joins the firm as part of Atmos Consulting’s commitment to fostering young local talent, with assistance from a local authority graduate placement scheme.
Fullarton said: “Along with our existing ornithology team, we have a powerful offering to clients looking for a combination of local knowledge and pragmatic environmental solutions to help deliver their projects.”