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Council opens consultation on location-specific community benefit fund from Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project

Council opens consultation on location-specific community benefit fund from Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project
21 June 2021

Orkney Islands Council has launched a public consultation into the location-specific community benefit scheme which could arise from Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project if the project is built.

‘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 to develop projects of their own.

Location-specific community benefit schemes are a well-established, integral part of renewable energy developments. They are voluntary arrangements offered by renewable energy developers to communities located near developments and are not a material consideration in a planning application.

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:

  1. What should be the geographical spread of the location-specific community benefit scheme be i.e. which communities should get the money?
  2. How should the location-specific community benefit scheme be administered i.e. who should look after the money?

The Council is also seeking general views on the types of projects that could benefit from the fund.

The Council has already agreed at a meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee to follow Scottish Government recommendations on the value of the fund, which says that developers who are providing a location-specific community benefit scheme should make the value of the fund £5000 per MW per year.

That means that the location-specific community benefit fund for each site (assuming 28.8MW installed capacity) would be £144,000 per year, or £432,000 per year across all three sites.

The consultation is not about expressing an opinion for or against the projects themselves – separate consultation processes exist for this.

The three individual sites are at various stages in the planning process; decisions are awaited on the Quanterness and Hoy projects from Scottish Ministers, and a planning application was submitted this month for the Faray project.

It’s possible that a decision to approve or refuse the planning application for any of the sites could come from the Scottish Government during this consultation process.  Announcement of any decision wouldn’t impact or affect this consultation on the location-specific community benefit fund, as the feedback gathered will be valuable to future project considerations.

A consultation document has been produced which provides some background information on Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project and on the guiding principles that have already been set for community benefit from the scheme.

The document also provides further context on the two key questions that are being asked by exploring the various options that exist.

Two schemes that are already in place in Orkney and in Shetland – Spurness in Sanday and the Shetland Community Benefit Fund – are also provided as examples of how existing schemes operate.

The consultation materials are available here. 

For further enquiries please contact Kirsty Groundwater, Project Officer, Orkney Islands Council by email on kirsty.groundwater@orkney.gov.uk or by phone on 07818508323

The deadline for submitting comments to the Project Team will be 26 July 2021.

Sweyn Johnston is Strategic Projects Director at Orkney Islands Council. He said: “When we talk about the community benefit from Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project, it’s important to note that there are two elements to this – community benefit from the income generated from the projects and a location-specific community benefit payment.

“Due to the fact that the projects will be owned by the Council – or in ‘public ownership’ – it’s estimated that our projects could provide close to four times more benefit to the local economy compared to privately owned developments. It’s estimated that the projects could make around £2 million profit per year per site and decisions will be made in the future by Councillors as to how that income will be distributed/spent – but as the income is coming to the Council (who provide vital local services) - it will benefit everyone in Orkney in some way. That element is therefore referred to as ‘the community fund’.

“The location-specific element is a payment made directly to the communities to fund projects of their own – and that is the element we are consulting on.

“During our earlier consultation events we had a significant number of questions directed to us about the location specific community benefit scheme – how much it would be, how it would be administered and most often, which communities would benefit from the fund.

“Through the consultation we hope to gather feedback to help create a scheme for and in partnership with our local communities.  I’d encourage anyone with an interest to check out the consultation information and make their views known.”

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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