Earlsburn Wind Farm
What is the project and how did it come about?
The community of Fintry is known for hosting the first shared ownership wind development in Scotland. In 2003 Fintry residents started to explore options for local renewable energy installations. The idea for ‘virtual ownership’1 of a wind turbine emerged following a community council meeting in which a commercial developer announced their intention of building Earlsburn Wind Farm nearby. Initially, the developer wanted to erect fourteen 2.5MW turbines.
However, local residents made a compelling case for an additional ‘community wind turbine’ leading to a total of 15 turbines with a combined generating capacity of 37.5MW. The community owns one 15th of the overall wind farm and profits generated or the equivalent of a virtual turbine. As Gordan Cowtan of the Fintry Development Trust explains, “We can point to one of the turbine on the hills and say that one is there because of the efforts we put in … at the same time we are not completely dependent on that turbine for the income generated.” 2
Legal structure & set-up
How does the partnership work?
Local residents set up Fintry Renewable Energy Enterprise Limited (FREE) to be able to enter a joint venture agreement with Falck Renewables, the first partnership of its kind in the UK. For the purpose of deciding what to do with the income generated the community set up Fintry Development Trust (FDT), a membership organisation with charitable status, which is governed by a board of local residents. FREE is a trading subsidiary of FDT, which means the latter can legally control how profits should be spent.
There are two key staff members, a senior energy advisor and a manager, who make the whole thing happen with the support of eight board members from the local community. Alongside their day job they spend time sharing their experience and advice with other communities who have similar ambitions. They also welcome visits from universities each year for students on environmental courses and have hosted delegations from Papua, Brazil and Estonia.
How was the project financed and what happens with the profits?
FDT secured a grant from the Scottish Community and Householder Renewables Initiative and used this to commission a feasibility study that illustrated the financial viability for the initiative.
After having explored different financing options, the community decided to take Falck Renewables up on their unique offer to provide up front capital for the 15th turbine. Over the first 15 years of the project, FREE pays back the loan while generating an annual income of £30,000 – £50,000 (€35,000 – €59,000) to the local community. Once the loan payments have been made, income is expected to rise to £400,000 (€470,000). This is significantly more income than the £35,000 (€30,000) of annual community benefit payments which are shared between three other communities nearby.
An initial project funded through the income generated by the turbine was used to survey household electricity consumption and offer free roof and cavity wall insulations to local households. The result was an estimated £90,000 (€105,000) reduction of household energy bills across Fintry, a community with 338 homes. Every local home is offered a £500 grant to install carbon reduction measure such as double-glazing or insulation. Twice the amount is available to households living in fuel poverty (where a household spends more than 10% of income on fuel). Another initiative provides grants to students in further education to help them manage costs related to reducing their impact on the environment. The money may be spent on goods or services such as the purchase of a bicycle, second hand books or public transport passes.
As such, the majority of income from the turbine goes straight back to the community via grants though larger initiatives may also receive funds from other sources.
- Doing something that no one has done before
- Trying to turn Fintry into a zero carbon, zero waste and sustainable community
- Increased fuel efficiency and reduction of fuel poverty
- Carbon reduction
- Environmental awareness in the local population
- Sharing experience with other communities and educational programmes
1 The terms ‘virtual ownership’ or ‘virtual turbine’ describe the fact that a community have bought into a larger commercial project but do not own a specific turbine in that project.
2 Fintry Development Trust (2011) Winds of change [Online video], 19 September. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls_1p8ad2mc> [Accessed 7 July 2016].
Hart Hill, Fintry
Type of Energy Project
Stage of Development
We can point to one of the turbine on the hills and say that one is there because of the efforts we put in ... at the same time we are not completely dependent on that turbine for the income generated.
Gordan Cowtan - Fintry Development Trust
FREE is set up
Falck and FREE sign agreement
Fintry Development Trust is set up
Power generation starts
Wind farm fully operational
FREE receives first income