Birsay Community Council is very much looking to the long term when it comes to the benefits it receives from local renewable energy projects - both in terms of the projects they use the fund for and the potential benefits that could come from new wind energy developments in the Birsay area.
"We currently receive a payment from the Holodyke turbine," explains Birsay Community Council Chair Richie Delday. "As it's just one turbine, it's not a payment on the scale of those received elsewhere in Orkney - but that's not to say we don't appreciate it. Our strategy with the payment is to allow the money to build up and then use it for a large-scale project that will benefit lots of folk.
"Our plan with the fund just now is to spend it on a car parking project in Birsay -possibly from what we call the 'Ministry Huts' to 'Zanzibar'. We'd like to improve parking there so that folk will be encouraged to park up close to the village when they're visiting Birsay and maybe take a walk into the village - spending money and supporting our local businesses in the process.
"It's a big project so we're looking to accumulate some of the turbine funds - and then use it to attract match funding from other sources - the Council's Community Development Fund for example."
In the future the Birsay Community Council area could also benefit from a payment from the five turbine, Hoolan Energy owned development, at Costa, which secured planning permission in 2019.
"We've had really good discussions with Hoolan over community benefit payments and I think there's a lot of opportunity there for the community, should the project go ahead," said Richie.
As part of the process for establishing a community benefit scheme, developers and communities are now encouraged - through Scottish Government guidelines - to look at putting together a community action plan, which lays out how a community intends to use the fund.
"We’re looking at setting up a steering group," explained Richie, "and through that we’ll be having a think about some projects that we could put funding towards.
“My own view is that we've got to find ways to reduce our use of fossil fuels and we're looking at a fair few projects in that kind of area. One thing we're looking at for example is potentially purchasing an electric bus for the community - which could then be used to take older folk in the parish to a lunch club. That way we’d be using the fund to do our bit for the environment, but also do our bit to look after our folk too."
Orkney Islands Council is currently consulting on a location-specific community benefit scheme for ‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project’.
‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project’ currently includes three potential wind farm sites - one in Hoy in the area around Wee Fea, another on Faray in the North Isles, and at Quanterness in St Ola.
If the project goes ahead, it could generate significant income for Orkney Islands Council, helping to provide services that local people rely on and providing a location-specific community benefit scheme for communities of £144,000 per year per site, or £432,000 per year across all three sites.
Through this consultation process the Council are hoping to work alongside local people to develop a location-specific community benefit scheme for the project that, as far as possible, best meets the needs and aspirations of the community.
The consultation is framed around two specific questions:
- What should be the geographical spread of the location-specific community benefit scheme be i.e. which communities should get the money?
- How should the location-specific community benefit scheme be administered i.e. who should look after the money?
More information – including a link to an online survey - is available on the consultation web page.