The three turbines at Beinn Ghrideag on the Pentland Road near Stornoway are producing enough power for every home on the Isle of Lewis, the Point and Sandwick Trust AGM heard earlier this week.

The Trust chairman Angus McCormack asked why anyone could support EDF’s plans for a corporate wind farm in Stornoway over a community-owned one like PST’s.

The three turbines at Beinn Ghrideag now generate £900,000 in profit each year, with every penny going back to the community. That is exactly the same sum of money which Lewis Wind Power (EDF and Amec-Foster-Wheeler in partnership with Stornoway Trust) plan to give to the community if they get the go-ahead for their wind farm — which has 36 turbines.

Around 50 people gathered in Ionad Stoodie in Point on Tuesday night (November 21) for the yearly update on Beinn Ghrideag and how the money it generates is spent.

There were a number of speakers — chairman Angus McCormack, wind farm developer Calum Macdonald and general manager Donald John MacSween — followed by a couple of presentations; one from Croft Woodlands project officer Viv Halcrow and the other from LED Energy Communities project officer Amy Kaphher-Diament.

Viv gave a report on the progress of Point and Sandwick’s Croft Woodlands project, a mission to plant 70 hectares of new woodland on croft ground in the Western Isles by 2020. Altogether, since the beginning of the project two seasons ago, a total of 42,410 trees have been planted in the island chain. This season alone, five SRDP (Scottish Rural Development Programme) plantations have gone into the ground — two in Point, the others elsewhere in Lewis, Harris and Grimsay, with 1,400 to 7,200 trees in each and totalling 21,000 hectares.

Smaller scale planting is also taking place, with applicants helped by funding from Woodland Trust’s MOREwoods scheme. Last season there were 14 MOREwoods schemes, with nearly 9000 trees from the Butt to Barra. This season, 20 schemes are involved. With between 300 and 1,350 trees in each scheme, there will be 10,640 trees altogether.

There have been 260 inquiries — 47 of them in the Point and Sandwick area alone – and Viv has made 185 croft visits. She also revealed how people were coming together to help each other with planting. It hadn’t been an aim of the project, she said, but it was also having a positive social impact.

There is now a dedicated Facebook page, ‘Western Isles Trees on the Croft’, where people can put out a request for help, once they are at the stage of doing the physical planting.

The AGM also heard from Amy Kaphher-Diament, who works on PST’s LED Energy Communities project along with Dan Morrison. Amy and Dan are both employed by Tighean Innse Gall but seconded to the LED project and were in Edinburgh recently for an awards ceremony, along with Point and Sandwick board member Matt Bruce, as the project had been shortlisted in the Climate Challenge Fund awards.

Amy explained the project had been chosen because of the excellent partnership working between Point and Sandwick Trust and TIG in the LED project, which is aimed at cutting fuel poverty and helping the environment.

She gave a breakdown of the kind of improvements that people are having done to their houses in the Point and Sandwick area, as a result of expressing an interest in the LED project, which initially offers all households the installation of up to 14 free LED bulbs.

Dan and Amy can then arrange for Energy Performance Certificates to be carried out and will give advice on what kind of work would be beneficial, such as the ‘room in the roof’ or cavity wall insulation — and advise people how to get funding help with that.

As Amy told the AGM: “The LED project is the hook for us to get into the house and have an overview of what is needed.”

Thanks had been expressed to Dan, Amy and Viv — and a number of others who support the work of Point and Sandwick Trust — earlier in the evening, by chairman Angus and also by Donald John MacSween, who gave a report about the many organisations and good causes that have benefitted from Point and Sandwick Trust donations through the year. A total of £300,000 has been paid out to a huge variety of groups this year by PST.

On generation itself, “we’ve had a good output this year,” said Calum Macdonald. “We’ve produced 29million KW hours.” To put that in perspective, he said the average household would use 3000 over a year. So 29million is enough to light up and heat every house in Lewis… so it’s a lot of power coming out of these three turbines.”

Angus McCormack said: “It is providing an income of £2.7million which, after operating costs, repaying our debts, paying the rent and various payments to crofters, makes a net profit of £800,000. And thanks to a recent success by Calum, that figure is now £900,000.

Angus welcomed the UK government’s determination that the interconnector should go ahead. However, he added: “I think that Greg Clark, the Minister for Energy, and Lord Duncan, the Scottish Under Secretary, are supportive of community renewables but I should like to have any dubiety about that removed, so I have written to Lord Duncan to ask if he will clarify.”

 

Point and Sandwick Trust chair Angus McCormack speaking at the AGM in Ionad Stoodie on Tuesday, November 21.