In Scotland, which has committed to generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020, communities are beginning to view renewable energy investment as potentially profitable. Case in point: Thornhill, a small village in Stirlingshire, which is seeking approval to put up a 500-kilowatt wind turbine at a farm overlooking the village.
The community-owned and -operated turbine would go beside three others that are privately owned. The four turbines together are expected to produce enough electricity to power 1,000 homes. With 640 residents in Thornhill, every home in the village could benefit from low-cost, clean electricity for up to 25 years, with the excess being sold on the commercial market.
Sweetening the deal, Scotland’s aggressive feed-in tariff would allow the turbine to generate up to £5 million for the community over 25 years. Although the residents of Thornhill would be responsible for paying rent on the land, and maintaining and operating the turbine, they would also have access to financing and grant funding, freeing them from having to pay for the turbine up front. After costs, the village expects to receive an annual windfall of up to £150,000 for the first 15 years of the 25-year project, with project revenue increasing thereafter.
Participation in the wind-power scheme has been approved by the Community Council. According to the Thornhill village newsletter, suggestions for how to spend the anticipated new income include: creating a college scholarship fund for local students, performing energy efficiency upgrades in homes, or paying the utility bills of community buildings. “This unique ownership and management model benefits mutually all of the stakeholders and creates a more certain future for the village,” said George Murray, owner of Braes of Boquhapple farm, site of the proposed wind turbine.