The Rise of the Independents

The Rise of the Independents

Independent Renewable Energy Schemes in Scotland are now producing enough energy to power over a million homes. A new report from SmartestEnergy “Energy Entrepreneurs Report 2014” also states that independent renewable energy projects saw a 50% rise in 2013 and that over £66m was invested into these independent schemes.

The report published by SmartestEnergy, a buyer of power generated by the independent sector states that this generated around £234m of electricity last year, a significant improvement on the £191m achieved in 2012.

Scottish Renewables stated that the rise showed independent electricity generators including communities, businesses, landowners, and public bodies were increasingly taking their energy future into their own hands.

SmartestEnergy’s Energy Entrepreneurs Report 2014 demonstrates that in Scotland 169 new independent renewable projects started in 2013, up 50 per cent on the number of new-starts in 2012. The report also estimates that £66.7m has been invested in the commercial-scale projects, taking the total number of independent projects of 50kW capacity or more in Scotland to over 500.

Scotland now accounts for 28% of independent renewable energy generation capacity in Great Britain. Northern regions Aberdeenshire and the Highlands & Islands are together responsible for more than 38 per cent of this amount.

All this means that total capacity has grown by 25.6 per cent to 1,762MW, enough to generate £234.5m worth of wholesale electricity a year and power more than a million households.

One of the most recent developments, and now the largest community wind farm in Scotland is the Loch Carnan community wind farm which is generating profits for investors in South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay by Stòras Uibhist, the community company which led Scotland’s biggest land buyout in 2006. The wind farm is expected to generate £2m gross revenue for the island community in 2014 alone.

Huw Francis, chief executive of Stòras Uibhist, said: “This is the biggest community wind farm in Scotland with 6.9MW of capacity – but there has not been any real criticism of the turbines because people can see that the revenue they generate is staying in the community and helping us to maintain and enhance the environment of our islands.”

Stephanie Clark, policy manager for Scottish Renewables, commented: “The Stòras Uibhist scheme is one of many excellent independent projects in Scotland.

“More communities, businesses and farmers across Scotland are grasping the opportunity to take their energy future into their own hands.

“There are many persuasive reasons why renewable energy is increasingly popular: lower energy costs in the future; a reduced carbon footprint; potential income from selling power into the grid; and, as in Stòras Uibhist, a positive and direct impact on the local community.”

Iain Robertson, head of generation for SmartestEnergy, which buys electricity from more than 100 projects in Scotland, said: “With over £1m a week being invested in these schemes, the independent sector is making an important contribution to the Scottish economy and providing valuable work for contractors and suppliers.”

The farming community has shown the strongest growth in terms of numbers of projects with a rise of over 83 per cent since last year’s report, outstripping the significant rise seen in Great Britain as a whole. The fastest growing Scottish region in terms of numbers of new sites is the Borders with a 140 per cent increase.

294 of the 509 independent renewable energy projects are onshore wind. Hydro 131 projects, landfill gas 42, solar 17, and biomass 12 make up the majority of the rest. Scotland is home to more than 50% of commercial-scale independent onshore wind in Great Britain and an estimated £248m has been invested in the 294 wind projects to date, an average per project of £846,109.

This is exactly what we do at ILI Renewable Energy and many of these projects will be ours. Although large scale wind projects produce the most of the renewable energy output in Scotland the impact of the independents cannot be underestimated.

In many areas a large scale development is not feasible for what could be varying reasons; environmental impact, visual impact, transport restrictions, grid restrictions plus others. The medium scale developments in which the independents are mostly involved can often overcome these issues as the impact of the turbine plus the addition to the grid is not as great as large scale projects.

Also as mentioned above the farming community has shown a huge level growth in terms of numbers of projects. We have spoken previously about the importance of the farming community in general and the additional income these projects can bring benefits farmers and the community in several ways. They can pay for farm labour, structural improvements, raw materials etc. all putting money back into the community and helping it grow positively.

Local communities involved in community developments like Loch Carnan and the many like it around the country can be proud of what they are achieving and how it is benefitting us all.

We appreciate that in order to reach our goals on renewable energy production large scale developments are necessary however we are delighted to see independent projects on the rise helping us reach these targets. The benefits the projects bring are wide ranging and affect many in a positive manner.

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