Scottish island seeks investors for first wind power scheme

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Investors are being sought for a long-awaited renewables scheme on North Uist which will raise revenue for the island for the next 22 years.

Around £1.1m is still required to get the Uist Wind project up and running after planning permission was finally granted for two wind turbines near Clachan.

North Uist is one of the last islands to exploit its renewable energy potential. PIC: Creative Scotland/James Stringer.

North Uist is one of the last islands to exploit its renewable energy potential. PIC: Creative Scotland/James Stringer.

A community share offer was launched on the island at the weekend with investors promised a 4 per cent annual return on their money.

Folk singer Julie Fowlis, who was raised on North Uist, has lent her support to the project.

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It is hoped the renewables scheme will attract investment from both islanders and those on the mainland.

Andrew Ross, local development officer at the North Uist Development Company (NUDC), said: “There seems to be quite a buzz surrounding the community share offer.

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“People can firstly see it is a reasonable rate of return and also it is helping a community project which people understand is worthwhile.

“North Uist is one of the very few islands that have been unable to develop its renewable resources so far. South Uist has a big scheme, on Harris there are several and on Lewis also.

“Now it is the turn of North Uist.”

Mr Ross said he hoped people might invest to benefit the younger generation with child bonds one option for those seeking to support the scheme.

The arrival of the wind turbines on North Uist has been delayed for several years given objections by the Ministry of Defence, which have now been dropped.

North Uist sits within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Hebrides, the largest weapons test and evaluation range in Europe.

The island’s green energy project was first proposed in 2009 but has was blocked by MOD amid claims that the wind turbines could potentially disrupt radar signals at St Kilda.

NUDC later proposed a technical solution to mitigate any effect the turbines could have on the radar systems, with the MOD lifting its objection to the plan last year.

Now, it is expected that around £2.3 million will be raised by the sale of electricity generated by the turbines over the next 22 years.

This is significantly lower than first anticipated given the reductions to UK government subsidies for wind power schemes that have come into force since the North Uist scheme was first proposed.

However, the much-needed funds will be used to fund social, cultural and health projects to benefit the community.

The community share offer will fund around 25 per cent of getting the wind turbines operational with a private bank agreeing to fund the remainder.

If investors cannot be found, a further loan will be sought although this will impact on the money available for the island.

It is hoped that electricity production can begin on North Uist by June 2019.

An event in Edinburgh designed to attract investment from the mainland to the North Uist wind power project is due to be held in the near future.

More information on the scheme is available at www.uistwind.com.