The people of Morvern have become the first community group in Scotland to invest their own money into a hydro scheme on land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland.
The move will provide the community with additional regular income in the future when the hydro scheme on the Abhainn Shalachain starts operating in 2014.
The 469kW hydro scheme could generate enough electricity to run 350 homes. The scheme is being developed by a company owned by Perth based hydro-energy company Green Highland Renewables Ltd, with funds managed by Triple Point Investment Management LLP.
The community has invested £30,000 into the hydro scheme and it is hoped this step will spur on other communities across Scotland to consider taking a share in similar renewable projects.
Welcoming the news, Environment & Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said:
“This is the very first direct investment by a community group into a hydro scheme being developed as part of Forestry Commission Scotland’s on-going renewables programme.
“As hydro schemes start to progress in other parts of the country, we are confident that the move taken by the Morvern community will act as a catalyst for others to take up similar opportunities.”
This hydro scheme is one of a number being developed by energy companies as part of an on-going renewables programme being promoted across land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland.
Although at a very early stage, Forestry Commission Scotland and its energy developers are in discussions with three other community groups who are interested in investing into small scale hydro projects.
Both the Morvern Community Development Company (MCDC) and Morvern Community Trust (MCT) have been responsible for the investment.
Angus Robertson, lead MCDC director for this project and local hydro enthusiast said:
“Whilst the community would have preferred to have a larger sum to invest into this project, they were delighted to be involved and will give the project all its support though the construction phase and into the future.
“MCDC is grateful to Forestry Commission Scotland and all other Scottish Government agencies for their help in pushing this ground breaking project through.”
Through the Forestry Commission Scotland’s renewables programme, communities have an option of investing their own money into schemes for a regular income. This investment can be in addition to taking the standard annual community benefit payment that is associated with renewable projects.
On this particular scheme, the community has also benefited from a 5 per cent free stake in the project and will be using this to obtain an on-going income.
Ian Cartwright, Managing Director at Green Highland Renewables said:
“Small scale hydro schemes offer good long-term returns for investors and we are very pleased this project will be completed with direct investment from the community.
“Our goal is to become one of the leading owners and operators of small scale hydroelectric schemes in the UK and we look forward to developing this, as well as future hydro projects, in partnership with the community, Forestry Commission Scotland and our funders Triple Point.”