CGDT – Renewable Energy for Sustainability
The Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust (CGDT) is looking to make their flagship project, Stronafian Forest, as a financially sustainable initiative and looking at generating renewable energy for income creation.
CGDT was established in 2008 to address the issues of population decline and economic regeneration. The two villages are ten miles apart and the community spans more than twenty miles. Diminishing resident populations, particularly young people, and the reduction in local businesses has resulted in the deterioration of local services. In 2010 the Trust started the process of a community buyout of the Stronafian Forest from the Forestry Commission. With grants from the Cruach Mhor Windfarm Trust, and the Scottish Land Fund, and a 99 year commercial lease for part of the forest, the Trust raised the £1.55 million to purchase the 615 ha forest in 2013.
The Trust’s Business Plan for Stronafian Forest is a combination of projects to provide resources and facilities to the community. It is anticipated that up to four affordable housing plots and six woodland croft sites will be provided, as well as recreation and education opportunities for the whole community and visitors. These facilities are to be supported by income generation initiatives. The more commercial of these initiatives are renewable energy, to provide financial sustainability through a predictable income.
The Trust is working on a 500kW wind turbine to be sited on the Stronafian Forest land. A meteorological mast have been in place since September 2014, and with the proven bankability of neighbouring Cruach Mhor Windfarm, the project is looking as an important source of income for the forests sustainable future. Community Development Trusts from other parts of the country have already expressed interest in investing in the project.
Eamon King, Stronafian Forest Development Officer for the Trust predicted “the turbine should start to produce an income within two years and this income will be used to finance the trust’s projects.” Presently the Trust has nine ongoing grant-funded projects and is particularly aware of the need for a financially sustainable future.
There is also a possibility of a hydroelectric scheme in partnership with the Forestry Commission through the National Forest Land Scheme Renewables Portfolio. Initial feasibility has identified that a 94kW hydro scheme could be installed providing gross revenue of £76,000 per year. Following acceptance of the project by the community it is expected that the scheme will progress to planning in summer 2015.
It is not only the income generation possibilities that can benefit the Colintraive-Glendaruel communities. Eamon expanded that “When both the wind and hydro projects are generating the Trust may look at electricity distribution to residents in the glen. This would allow the Trust to minimise the impact of energy price rises and ensure that the locally generated energy stayed in the local economy.”
For a population of 200 people separated by 10 miles, the trust has achieved a real focus for the economic regeneration of the villages. The Trust is relying on the renewable energy income generating projects as its financial mainstay, to finance its projects in the long term, and achieve its vision of “a vibrant community with a growing economy and with the ability to attract young economically active families whilst sustaining a high quality of life and safeguarding our natural and cultural resources.”