Wind Turbine and Hydroelectric Scheme - some history
Coigach has an abundance of two main energy resources – wind and rain – which we are using to provide an income stream for the community.
We never anticipated 14 years of work before we were to see the blades turning and the pounds coming in but it has been worth the wait!
Our wind turbine is 50 metres tall to the hub, with the blades spinning 23 metres above that, and it generates 500 kW on a good day – equating up to 12,000 kWh in a 24-hour period. It has been standing since 2017 on moorland above Acheninver, below Ben Mor Coigach’s subsidiary summits of An t’Sail, Ben nan Caorach and Cona Mheall, overlooking the Summer Isles and the Minch beyond. Its name is Varuna, as a tribute to a fisherman and community activist from Applecross, whose boat was called after the Hindu god of the sky and the water.
To manage the income, a Community Interest Company, Coigach Community CIC, was set up to donate all its profits to CCDC and in 2019 the CIC refinanced the cost of developing the turbine with a 12-year 5% bond for £1.75m through Triodos Bank.
In 2011, CCDC was approached by local landowner, the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), wishing to explore the potential for revenue generation through the development of a run-of-the-river hydroelectric scheme on a joint venture basis. Tight timelines and market uncertainties meant that a third party, Locogen, was brought on board, with SWT and CCDC now retaining a 12.5% share of net profits.
Ben Mor Hydro produces 500kW of power when running up to speed, has a head of water of 290 metres with the intake dam high above Acheninver, and at full output over 12 tonnes of water per minute pass through the turbine!
The Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) scheme – which enhances the income of both projects – and the planning permission for the wind turbine are set to end in 2037. We are exploring ways to enable continued generation of some kind with the aim of securing an income stream beyond that date. We are also investigating the possibility of setting up a local grid to enable local residents to purchase their electricity directly from us. Unfortunately, in the UK the legal mechanism isn’t in place to enable this to happen at the moment, but we are working on it!