A remote Highland community has welcomed the benefits of blades turning on a new £1.8million wind turbine project.
The Coigach Community Development Company (CCDC) based in Wester Ross expects over £2million of community benefit funds over the 20 year life of the turbine, which is believed to be the first large community-owned turbine in mainland Highland.
The turbine, near Achiltibuie, is now producing power which is supplied to the National Grid. The resulting income will be used to improve local services and infrastructure, help establish new businesses, provide bursaries and fund training for all ages. It is owned and managed by Coigach Community CiC, a subsidiary set up by CCDC, and supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Achiltibuie is in the Coigach Peninsula, which covers 15,500 hectares including around 20 small islands known as the Summer Isles and is designated a National Scenic Area. It is characterised by rugged coastline, high mountains and large stretches of boggy moorland. The total population is 271.
Iain Muir, chairman of CCDC, said: “Like the road to Achiltibuie, the journey has been long, narrow and winding, and not without its pot-holes, precipitous roadside drops and things jumping out in front of us, but finally we’ve reached our goal and it’s fantastic to see the blades turning.
“It’s taken so many years of dedicated voluntary effort by members of the community as well as our staff. However, splendid though the turbine is, it’s simply a means to an end – its job is to generate funds for us to plough into our community to secure a bright future for present generations and those yet to come.”
Since joining HIE’s community account management programme in 2010, CCDC has appointed two part-time local development officers (LDOs) to take forward a range of projects with potential to generate income and improve sustainability in the area. These focus on renewables, provision of commercial premises, housing, tourism (including piers and harbours), land and environment.
In addition to support the LDO salaries, HIE has also been able to help fund costs of feasibility studies and technical consultations for the turbine. The commencement of power, and therefore income, generation from the turbine is a significant step for the community.
Lindsay Simpson, development manager with HIE, said: “This is great news for Coigach residents. The income generated from the turbine will help accelerate progress with some of the other community projects in development, including support for young people. In time these will strengthen community resilience and the area’s attractiveness as a place to visit, live, work and study. We look forward to continuing to work with CCDC and supporting their development projects.”