Green Energy Mull smashes its initial target of £300 000 shares 

It is almost a year to the day since the first share sale was launched for Mull’s Garmony hydro-scheme, and since then over 200 people have become investors.

The Garmony Hydro scheme, a first for the island, is intended to reduce its carbon footprint by taking advantage of one of the most abundant resources available on Mull – rainfall. Once the scheme is operational Green Energy Mull (GEM) hopes it will generate sufficient electricity to meet the needs of 230 homes on Mull, by harnessing the 320KW ‘run of river‘ hydro electric power on the burn near to the Garmony settlement overlooking the Sound of Mull. The Hydro scheme is on land owned by the Forestry Commission, and by gaining a majority of island votes in support for the scheme last February, GEM was able to lease the land from the  Commission.

As the scheme is progressing well through the construction phase there is still time to become a share holder, but GEM will have to call a halt to investments soon. They have smashed our initial target of raising £330,000.  The totaliser sits today at over £450,000 which is a staggering amount of money. This is a great scheme and one that will help to improve the lives of islanders for many years to come.

As well as generating clean, renewable energy, the scheme will produce income which will benefit Mull and Iona by providing:

  • seedcorn funding for other community renewable energy and energy conservation projects
  • funding for the support provided by the Community Trust to individuals and groups on the island
  • direct funding for a whole range of island groups and events projects (e.g. Village shows, Mull Rally, Village Halls)

Since work commenced on site back in May a, huge amount has happened and the scheme is progressing well. The primary intake is almost complete. This has required much digging and rock breaking and dodging the bad weather. The 800 metre long pipe that will take the water from the intake to the turbine has been delivered, welded together and is now being buried in a trench. Work on the turbine house has now been started and the foundations are being laid. All the contractors and suppliers involved with Garmony Hydro are doing their absolute best, and it is hoped that commissioning will take place during January 2015.

Budget for this project is tight and any additional income that can be raised will mean that GEM do not have to seek additional loan finance if necessary. If you have already invested in GEM, you are more than welcome to invest further. With bank interest rates still so low, this is still a good scheme to be involved with. The weather over the last few weeks has been especially wet and it is grand to think that soon GEM will be able to harness this rain and make some money out of it for the communities of Mull and Iona.

A share Prospectus can be downloaded from the Garmony hydro website.

SMILEGOV update December 2014

In Project SMILEGOV, the Scottish Islands Federation (SIF) leads the capacity building involvement of 10 island communities in the project, participating alongside other cluster leaders and islands throughout European Atlantic, Baltic and Mediterranean regions.

  • Arran
  • Bute
  • Cumbrae
  • Gigha
  • Iona
  • Lismore
  • Luing
  • Mull
  • Sleat (Skye)
  • Small Isles (Canna, Eigg, Muck, Rum)

Individuals on each of these islands, together with key staff in their respective local authorities have been invited to register and encouraged to study with SMILEGOV’s free online island energy training course.

Additionally, through a CARES project also led by SIF, energy audits are currently being undertaken on each island, with mentoring support for island auditors supplied through Community Energy Scotland. It is anticipated that these reports will serve as the basis for stakeholder meetings early in 2015, to expedite practicalities of preparing Island Sustainable Energy Action Plans, to inform, shape and focus island energy projects into the future.

SMILEGOV recognises a somewhat distinct model applying in Scotland compared to other clusters: Here, energy projects are often planned and implemented by island communities on their own behalf, supported rather than led by Local Authorities. Community engagement (such as we might take for granted as our starting point) seemingly presents challenges for some local government agencies leading energy projects on islands elsewhere. For the remaining duration of SMILEGOV, monitoring and supporting Bankable Projects within clusters is an important activity, reporting to allow for wider sharing of expertise and experience both within and between clusters. This may be in terms of planning, financial models, grid constraints, stakeholder engagement, or specialist and emergent technologies.

Other SMILEGOV deliverables, completed or pending, include case studies in effective multi level (or multi lateral) governance, and working groups and fact sheets focussed on particular projects and technologies. Working with European partners allows for better informed appraisal of how energy project planning, development and implementation on Scottish islands compares with achievements and priorities of our peers elsewhere in Europe, in order to strategically focus appropriate capacity building support and overcome obstacles. SMILEGOV: Bankable Projects registered in Scotland:

  •  Arran – Hydro
  • Bute – Biodiesel
  • Bute – PV
  • Canna – Wind
  • Cumbrae – Wind
  • Gigha – Wind
  • Lismore – wind/ hydro
  • Mull – Hydro
  • Mull – Virtual local grid
  • Sleat – Wind

For further information contact:Terry Hegarty – SMILEGOV Project Officer, Scottish Islands Federation terry@scottish-islands-federation.co.uk / 01681 700600

Good luck to Gigha

Good luck to Gigha in balancing the books
Great editorial in The Herald, putting recent stories about the community-owned island of Gigha in context.

Read  also about Gigha’s innovative battery storage project in islands going green.

“Noone said community ownership of land would be easy. When the people of Gigha completed their £4 million buyout in 2002, they were able to wave goodbye or should that be good riddance? to private landlords, but took on what was in effect a major business. All businesses face challenging periods and have to balance the imperatives of investing in the future with keeping debt levels sustainable, so it is not altogether surprising that after making much needed improvements, the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust has debts of £2.7m. Importantly, it also has assets of £7.5m.
There would have been little point to community ownership unless housing stock renovations were carried out. A report prior to the buyout found threequarters of the estate’s 42 houses should not be lived in, while nearly all of the rest were “in serious disrepair”. Housing renovation does not come cheap, but the trust has also invested in income-generating technology, installing four wind turbines that trust chairwoman Margaret McSporran says have already earned the island more than £800,000.

So Gigha’s debt was accrued making the island a much more attractive place to live; indeed, its population has gone up from 96 to 170 since the buyout. The strong backing given to Ms McSporran this week by islanders suggests that the community appreciates the scale of the task and the work the trust has done. That is not to say the debt is not significant. It is understandably a worry to many islanders and must be tackled. A strategic review of the organisation has warned it is unsustainable, based on current revenues and that immediate action is required to turn things around. It is to the trust’s credit that it is wasting no time. Ms McSporran has already announced reforms of the trust’s governance and management of debt, and its intention to attract more people to the island, which is seen as important for its economy. Other planned measures include doing more to bring in tourists, including by seeking experienced hotel managers to lease the hotel.

Good luck to the trust in these endeavours. Gigha’s problems have come to light just as the new First Minister has announced she wishes to ensure Scotland’s land is an “asset that benefits the many, not the few”. She plans to end business rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates in order to more than treble the Scottish Land Fund, allowing for much more community ownership.

Putting more land under community control is a noble aim and one that has strong public backing. Gigha’s recent experience, while highlighting the challenges community trusts face in managing such complex enterprises, certainly does not undermine the validity of the model. After all, private companies go bust without it prompting a reevaluation of capitalism.

The Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust has a major task ahead to get back to financial health, but it has a proud record on which to build.

More from David Ross at the The Herald.

The Highland Line: Gigha’s financial difficulties are not as bad as they seem
Friday 28th November 2014

News that the community trust which has owned the island of Gigha for the past 12 years, faces some financial difficulties was widely reported this week.

A strategic review of the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust found the trust was “ in a precarious financial position, with total third-party debts of £2.7m. The overall debt structure is unsustainable based on current revenues.”

It seems however that with an assets portfolio recently valued at around £7.5m, the position may not be so pressing as it once appeared. Indeed there are many in the land who would be delighted to think their house was worth almost three times the outstanding mortgage on it.

Talking of houses when the community was buying the island, a housing conditions survey highlighted the scale of the task ahead. It found that of the 42 houses that came with the estate, 75% were classed as “below tolerable standard” and should not be inhabited, while 23% classed were “in serious disrepair”.

“If we put in a nail or a hinge, or put a slate on a roof, we will have done a bloody sight more than has been done for decades under our landlords,” Willie McSporran who was to become the trust chairman said at the time.

Meanwhile it also revealed a high level of hidden homelessness, parents or siblings providing homes for adults.

Now well over 30 of the properties have been renovated. Around £160,000 has been spent on each of the houses, with 60% coming in the form of grants and the rest raised one way or another by the community.

In 2011 the community’s efforts were recognised by the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland, with its prestigious Excellence in Regeneration Award.

These houses alone must be worth over £4.5m.

Money was also spent adding a fourth wind community turbine to the island’s “Three Dancing Ladies” which were already earning over £100,000 a year.

So Gigha has been a story about investment, albeit one which could have been written with different chapters on borrowing. It is a story of an island stemming generations of depopulation.

But the possibility of one of Scotland’s headline community buyouts becoming financially troubled has always been a possibility, just as any privately owned business or estate can get into difficulty. But supporters of the community land movement have long been concerned about the likely response from some self-appointed guardians of the public purse.

It was something addressed by historian Jim Hunter in his study of community ownership in the Highlands and Islands

The Carnegie UK Trust commissioned Professor Hunter to write the story of community buyouts over the past 20 years, and “ From The Low Tide of the Sea to the Highest Mountain Tops” was published in 2012.

In the conclusion he wrote that maintaining the necessary commitment to such projects by local residents was a constant challenge, and continued:

“ That is why it is by no means impossible that, sooner or later, one – or more than one – of the local land trusts operating in the Highlands and Islands will get into financial difficulty, maybe even go under. If or when this happens critics and opponents of community ownership will insist that the community ownership concept has thereby been invalidated. They will be wrong. The bankruptcy of a conventionally structured company – something which happens every day – does not of itself indicate that other companies are bound to meet the same fate. Nor will the failure of a community ownership trust in any way signal that other such trusts are necessarily heading for the rocks. After all, if the record of private landownership in the Highlands an Islands was the be judged by the number of landlords who have gone spectacularly bust, often with very bad consequences for their tenants and dependants, then time would have been called on such ownership very many years ago.”

And for those who questioned whether public money should be spent on the buyouts, Professor Hunter had some comparisons.

The £30m total from public and lottery sources which helped take half-a-million acres of land into community control over two decades, was equivalent to the bill for only 600 yards of Edinburgh’s tramlines.

In fact it amounted to less than 7% of the cost of the five-mile M74 completion stretch of motorway in Glasgow and matched the subsidy farmers and landowners receive in Britain every three or four days.

Money well spent or what?

Empowering Scottish Islands

Island Minister appointed 

The Scottish Islands Federation welcomes the restoration of the island minister post for which it has long been campaigning. Derek MacKay who has been appointed to the post, previously chaired the Islands Area Ministerial Working Group which produced the Prospectus for Islands, undoubtedly the most comprehensive package of powers for island communities ever produced.

Relaunch of Islands Area Ministerial Working Group.

Newly appointed Islands Minister meets with the Leader of Orkney Islands Council Leader on Tuesday 2nd December. Speaking ahead of his visit Mr Mackay said: “The Scottish Government’s proposals to empower all of Scotland’s island communities included a commitment to appoint an Islands Minister and I am keen to engage with all the islands leaders. Orkney is my first island visit since being appointed and I plan to visit all other Island leaders in the coming weeks. In my new role I will focus on fulfilling our commitments to empower and support Scotland’s island communities and to provide a voice for all of Scotland’s 93 island communities within the Government. We will shortly re-launch the Islands Area Ministerial Working Group and consult on further measures that might be included in an Islands Act. This will include how the Smith Commission proposals for the full devolution of all Crown Estate assets in Scotland can bring benefits to the islands.”

Empowering Scottish Island Communities

On 17 June 2014, in Kirkwall, First Minister Alex Salmond launched the “Prospectus for islands”, stating the Scottish government’s vision for the Scottish Islands. It was the result of months of meeting by the islands area ministerial working group set up to look at how the vision produced by the 3 unitary island councils – Orkney- Shetland and Western isles in their ground-breaking document  “Our Islands, Our Future” launched in Orkney almost exactly a year before. In the prospectus, the Scottish Government has committed to implement a range of proposals, including:

  • To bring forward a Bill for an Islands Act upon independence to place a duty on the Scottish Government and other public bodies to ‘island-proof’ their functions and decisions, and create a post of ‘Minister for Island Communities’
  • To extend to 2020 the duration of the Enterprise Areas at Arnish, Lyness and Hatston, and support the establishment of Island Innovation Zones, to help sustain job opportunities
  • To allocate, upon Independence, 100 per cent of the net income from the islands’ sea bed leasing revenues to island communities rather than to central government
  • To ensure Islands Councils’ representation on a new strategic energy committee upon independence, and explore ways to mitigate any adverse community impacts from oil and gas activities consistent with our commitments made to the industry in Scotland’s Future
  • To develop a ‘planning brief’ approach for aquaculture to underpin further development and growth of the sector, and develop a ‘Community Benefit Charter’ with the Islands Councils, the aquaculture industry and those involved in the regulatory framework
  • To ensure the special needs of island communities have a stronger voice and representation in Europe ‪These proposals will complement the range of recent measures already being implemented by the Scottish Government, including:
  • Additional top-up to island beef producers leading to an uplift of around €65 per calf under the Beef Voluntary Coupled Support (VCS) Scheme
  • Delegation of statutory regional marine planning for the Island areas (to 12 nautical miles) to local Marine Planning Partnerships, with the Islands Councils playing a lead role
  • Securing Islands council representation on committees to ensure voice in the Scotland Rural Development Programme

Here is a link to  download the full document: Empowering Scottish Islands Communities.

Community Food Growing

Community food growing 

One of the ambitions of the forthcoming Community Empowerment Bill is to increase the number of communities who take on land with a view to growing food.

Acquiring the land is one thing –although no easy task in itself – but converting land into a successful growing space is something else altogether. A great couple of resources have just been published by the Fed, SAGS, SNH and CSGN. See also the step by step guide to community growing. (thanks to Angus Hardie of Local People leading for this information)

Horshader Community Growing Project receives SURF award

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Horshader’s Community Growing Project was awarded the prestigious 2014 SURF Award for Best Practice in Community Led Regeneration on 2/12/14. The project was praised for its inspiring work by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs.

  • The Community Growing Project was set up in January 2014 by Horshader Community Development to serve the villages of South Shawbost, Dalbeag, and Dalmore on the West Side of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.
  • It established an innovative community-led partnership through the Ideas Bank to develop a sustainable project which also demonstrates efficient use of public funding.
  • Horshader Community Development received grant funding from the Climate Challenge Fund and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to erect allotment polytunnels in the area and fund two local jobs.
  • A full time Project Worker is responsible for the growing unit and producing a plan for providing fresh fruit and vegetables which will be distributed through a market garden initiative. A part time Outreach Officer is also be employed and be responsible for organising and delivering a programme of events and activities to encourage the reduction of carbon emissions.
  • The project provides four food-growing polycrubs that will supply year-round fresh fruit and vegetables for the community. It will also provide an accessible covered space for community members to grow their own produce in the form of two allotment tunnels, one in South Shawbost and one in Dalmore.
  • Ordinary polytunnels would not last long in the exposed climate of the island of Lewis. For this reason, polycrubs, made out of recycled feed pipe from salmon farms and polycarbonate sheeting have been sourced from Nortenergy in Shetland where they have withstood gales of up to force 12.

Islands Going Green

Gigha Battery Project 

Gigha Green Power on the community-owned Isle of Gigha have recently commissioned an Enercon E33 turbine to complement their existing three Vestas V27 wind farm. However, due to grid constraints the output of the turbine is restricted to 225kW rather than its designed 330kW output.

Whilst an updated grid connection is in the pipeline for 2015 / 2016, this presented an ideal opportunity to research and prototype an Energy Storage System to release the full potential of the turbine. A consortium led by REDT (Renewable Energy Dynamics Technology Uk Ltd) have been successful in gaining DECC funding for such a project.

The  Vanadium Redox Flow battery is due to start working in June 2015. It provides an innovative solution to an increasingly common problem by allowing a behind the meter flow battery to store any excess power and release this power when the wind drops and the capacity on the grid is available.

Its primary role is to capture currently constrained energy, charging at low cost, discharging at high cost, but it will also allow Gigha to run as closed system when the national grid is not present, by providing a temporary grid for the turbines to run.

This is the first battery of this type to be installed at this size in a working capacity and will provide valuable insight into the technology and its real world implementation.

The community of Gigha will benefit from the additional income received and it is also hoped the the system will be used to research arbitrage models and small scale network support.

For more details on this project, see the presentation by Andy Oliver of Gigha Green Power in the 2014 conference reports on the Community Energy Scotland website.

Eigg’s green grid helps win Nesta’s Big Green Challenge

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The isle of Eigg was the only Scottish finalist out 10 contestants for the £ 1 million prize offered by NESTA’S Big Green Challenge aimed at reducing a community’s carbon footprint, and one of the 3 winners in 2010.  The award-winning Eigg electrification scheme  installed in 2008 gave the islanders a good head start. The Eigg Green grid uses wind, water and sun to power the 40 homes and businesses on the island, with diesel as a back up when required.

To reduce their carbon footprint further, the islanders of Eigg focussed on cutting down their use of high CO2 emitting fossil fuels, like coal & kerosene  (used to heat residents’ homes and water) and diesel (used in the renewable electric grid back-up generators and island vehicles).

They did this by installing pilot solar thermal panels systems on three island homes and a community building, providing access to good quality wood fuel as an alternative to coal/kerosene and reducing the use of island vehicles through provision of an all year-round mini-bus run in part on recycled chip-oil whilst encouraging more walking and cycling by providing a green grant for islanders to buy new bicycles.

Growing more local food helped reduce food miles whilst reducing the amount of waste going into the skip through recycling, reducing and composting, also helped to reduce Eigg’s methane emissions through landfill.

Sharing the knowledge was an important part of the project. To that end, the islanders launched their own Island Going Green website. Thanks to S.I.F. director Frank Corcoran’s inspiring presentation at the European Small Isles Federation (ESIN) AGM in Elba in September 2010,  ESIN unanimously decided to adopt the Islands Going Green Scheme, with Sweden and Finland taking the lead.

Towards Zero Carbon Bute wins the National Energy Globe Awards

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With five years of carbon busting achievements, Fyne Futures’ Towards Zero Carbon Bute was one of the UK entries into the Energy Globe Award. Altogether there were  over 1000 entries from 120 countries.
The inspiring TZCB project reduced the islands emissions by 5,274 tonnes of CO2 and was justly rewarded by the National Energy Globe Award United Kingdom. TZCB did this delivered via recycling waste management, reuse of furniture, growing local produce, raising awareness and promoting behaviour change across a number of themes including low carbon travel initiatives, energy efficiency and renewable technologies.

Energy Globe also offers citizens a free online check to find out the individual energy saving potential. In addition with the online solar tool citizens have the option to find out how to generate and use solar energy – the tool delivers a country-specific result and takes into account the respective sunlight. The sum of the potential energy savings and the potential of solar power generated are documented continuously online on a global counter. From the end of May sustainable projects can be submitted again for Energy Globe Award 2015. All details and the entry form are available for download on www.energyglobe.info.

Fetlar, the eco-friendly island

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Islanders on Fetlar have also begun to take steps to to reduce their use of imported energy and reduce their energy bills. The Fetlar Community Association has already installed a 6kw Wind turbine to reduce both their hall’s heating costs and carbon footprin. The Fetlar Museum Trust has also installed a similar turbine to provide heating in its interpretive facility. As part of the Fetlar Community Development plan, a number of other helpful measures have been identified:

  • reducing Household Energy Consumption: In partnership with the Energy Saving Trust we are aiming to start a project to help people reduce energy consumption in their homes. Energy Saving Trust officers will conduct home visits to complete an initial energy audit and offer advice on energy saving measures. They will also highlight schemes which give householders help with the costs of upgrading insulation and heating systems as well as installation of heat pumps and renewables.
  • Electric Transport: the Community has secured funding to purchase an electric minibus to be  charged by a linked wind turbine. Excess energy would be used to provide heating for the local Primary School and Nursery. This vehicle will provide a much better solution to the transport needs of islanders and replace up to two diesel powered vehicles.
  • Reducing Food Miles: A number of people on the island already grow there own food, but not everyone has suitable space or in some cases any land. The Community is currently looking into a scheme to provide both outdoor and indoor areas for growing. In conjunction with this project it is planned to introduce a community composting scheme to recycle as much food waste as possible.

Tells us about your island and how it is going green!