Wind farm will pay for new homes

Paul Wheelhouse, Helen Forsyth and Nicholas Gubbins at Hoprigshiels.
Paul Wheelhouse, Helen Forsyth and Nicholas Gubbins at Hoprigshiels.

Scotland’s first wind farm created to pay for affordable homes to be built was officially opened this week near Grantshouse.

The Hoprigshiels three-turbine wind farm, a joint venture by Berwickshire Housing Association and Community Energy Scotland, is expected to generate enough revenue to build 500 houses over its 25-year lifespan.

Carrying out the official opening, Scottish Government business minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The newly renamed Fishermen Three wind farm at Hoprigshiels is an exciting project that very ably illustrates our vision of local people benefiting from renewable energy projects installed in their area.

“As someone who lived in the local fishing community of Cove for five years, I love the new link to the area’s fishing heritage, and I have also been well aware of Berwickshire Housing Association’s ambitions to develop the wind farm for many years, so I congratulate Helen Forsyth and her team, and Community Energy Scotland, for achieving the successful delivery of this important project.

“The wind farm should generate around £30m of revenue over the next 25 years, strengthening the association’s finances and enabling it to build 500 much-needed, additional homes across Berwickshire.”

The housing association’s expected income from selling electricity produced by it to the National Grid over its 25-year lifespan is £20m.

Community Energy Scotland’s £10m share over the same period will be used to support communities across the country to develop and benefit from green energy projects.

The three-turbine scheme will yield just under 25 million kilowatt-hours annually – enough energy to power around 5,900 households, saving 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Helen Forsyth, chief executive of Berwickshire Housing Association, said: “The idea for the wind farm came when we realised that we had to be innovative in order to solve the dilemma of how to keep building new homes for social rental, which are so badly needed in this area, at a time when funding for new housing through traditional channels was in decline.

“The wind farm will provide us with a reliable, predictable, low-maintenance source of income that will allow us to build a steady stream of new affordable homes at a time when services are all too often being cut.

“This is not our only application of renewable energy. It is part of a whole approach and attitude that includes fitting 700 homes with photovoltaic solar panels and investing in new heating systems that reduce fuel bills for our tenants.”

Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of Community Energy Scotland, said: “In recent years, we have helped hundreds of community groups to take forward green energy projects, but, like many charities, we struggle to cover our own costs.

“We are delighted to have been able to work in partnership with Berwickshire Housing Association to develop our own joint project.

“The UK energy system is changing, and we want to make sure that communities are at the forefront of the opportunities that this will create for new, low-carbon energy developments.

“This project will help us to do this, while providing an initial community benefit payment of £37,500 per year which will go to the communities closest to the wind farm site.”

A competition to name the wind farm and individual turbines was won by Marion O’Hara, who picked the collective Fishermen Three and the individual turbines named Wynken, Blynken and Nod from a nursery poem by the American poet Eugene Field.