BHA wind turbines to pay for new houses

Affordable housing in Berwickshire
Affordable housing in Berwickshire

A connection date for the Berwickshire Housing Association wind turbines at Hoprigshiel, Cockburnspath, has been given as April 2017.

The housing association has been working on the wind power scheme since 2009, and it is hoped that over a 25 year period the three turbines will produce enough electricity to bring in between £18-£23 million of revenue to be used to build much needed new homes in Berwickshire where there are on average 50 applicants for every registered social landlord home that comes up for rent.

They are working with partners, Community Energy Scotland, a charity that supports Scottish communities that want to benefit from renewable energy. The expected 19GWh of electricity a year that will be produced will be enough to power around 4000 households - providing income for both BHA and Community Energy Scotland. Funding has also come from the Scottish Government’s Renewable Energy Investment Fund.

“We are at the point now where there is a real under-supply of housing,” said Helen Forsyth, chief executive of Berwickshire Housing Association. “This will enable us to build more housing.

“The Government have said they will give us higher grant levels and expect us to build more houses, quicker.

“We have worked out we should be able to get 20 homes a year and may have the capacity to do more.”

Current plans are for Berwickshire Housing Association to build 50 homes over the next year and over the next two years.

“The Scottish Government view is that affordable housing for rent is a good thing so they want us to do more,” explained Helen.

“We will try and work with people from this part of the area, we have a big challenge to build as efficiently as possible but the important thing is to have really good houses.”

Initially BHA will focus on Duns, Eyemouth and Ayton and down the line plan to build in Chirnside and Coldstream.

The most recent houses built by BHA were the modular homes at Eyemouth and Duns. The homes were constructed as modules within a factory, then brought to site for erection and finishing.

This was the first time BHA had provided homes this way and Helen admits there were many lessons learned along the way - the main one being that they allocated the homes too soon, promising new tenants entry dates that proved impossible to stick to.

However, once the houses were able to be occupied most tenants have been happy with their new homes, give or take a few snagging issues.

“At the moment we are working with the sites we own,” added Helen. “We have audited the land we own and are looking at how we use that land.”

They are trying to be creative with the pieces of land unsuitable for building and are looking at working with the Borders Forest Trust and creating allotments and garden areas.