£9.5m windfarm windfall for local communities

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An ambitious community benefit scheme which could see communities in North Carrick benefit to the tune of £9.5m over 25 years has got underway.

Plans for eight turbines at the Knoweside Community Wind Farm were unveiled recently in Maybole and the hope is that a partnership will be set up between community councils, Culzean and Casillis estates and the wind energy specialists Banks Renewables.Community councils covering Maybole, Kirkoswald, Maidens, Turnberry and Dunure will lead a major exercise to consult local people on the proposals.

Plans will be outlined as to how the £9.5m will be invested in local groups, projects and job creation initiatives with the option to increase that amount if they take up an option to buy equity in the wind farm company.

As well as helping to fund the local action plans drawn up by each of the community councils, 20% of the revenues would be set aside to benefit the wider area.

Peter Mason, chairman of Carrick Community Councils’ Forum and a resident of Maybole, said: “What is most important about this is that it is a community-led initiative. We will now ask our communities if they want to join this proposed partnership.

“We have a duty to make sure that as many people as possible across our communities get the chance to hear what these plans would involve and how the local area could benefit, so that they can make the most informed decision on whether to go ahead.”

The initial proposal would see the community receive a 4% share of the gross revenues over its 25 year lifespan. However, the community would also have a chance to purchase a further 5% stake in the proposed wind farm when, and if, it is operational.

The community councils have requested that local companies are given the opportunity to tender for the construction work which could see contracts worth millions of pounds awarded to firms based in Carrick and the wider South Ayrshire area.

Colin Anderson, director of Banks Renewables, said: “When we first talked about creating a wind farm here in 2006 we won the support of local people with our community focused approach, but had to shelf the scheme because of technical hurdles.

“We’ve used the intervening years to make major changes to the proposed site, reducing the number of turbines from 15 to just eight and then relocating them.

“What we have now is a proposal that is good for the environment, shaped to be as sympathetic as possible to the setting and structured to bring real, tangible and long-term benefits to the local area.”