Lesmahagow, a small Lanarkshire town overlooking the Clyde Valley, is no stranger to renewable energy. With large wind farms distributed throughout the region, the construction of three comparatively small turbines on a local farmers’ land may barely be noticed. Despite the abundance of turbines in the area, these three are worth paying attention to. They represent something innovative and important in terms of local ownership and control of energy production. Having been closely involved in the project, the team at Edinburgh-based Scene Consulting visited the site in April 2015 to see how the project was progressing.
Stewart Energy Ltd began with local farmer, Andrew Stewart, at his Marshill Farm. Approached by a developer, Andrew realised the potential of his land for wind energy generation and decided to keep the project in local hands and develop it himself. He utilised the CARES scheme, taking out a loan which allowed him to scale up his ambitions.
The project gained further support when negotiations with the Lesmahagow Development Trust (LDT) resulted in their involvement in the project. LDT also obtained support through CARES and later the Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF).
With a partner on board and over £8 million of funding committed, the project reached financial close and neared the construction phase. Currently under construction, the project consists of two 74 meter and one 120 meter turbine, providing a rated capacity of 2.5MW – enough to power around 1,500 homes.
Rethinking local ownership
Scotland has a growing community renewables sector, which could be partitioned into two categories – wholly community owned and joint ventures. Currently, the most notable joint ventures (such as the Fintry Development Trust’s turbine) are agreements between large wind farm developers and communities, usually offering a modest percentage of a development’s profits. Stewart Energy ltd is another form of joint venture, where all participants are local. This type of shared ownership can mean a multitude of things to both the project and the local area, providing a more balanced relationship between stakeholders and maximising local reinvestment of profits.
The LDT investment promises upwards of £3 million profit for local social and environmental development, including provision of insulation for properties within the community, recreational schemes for young people and protection of the town’s heritage – such as the remains of the Lesmahagow Priory.
Setting an Example
Stewart Energy’s turbines may not seem ground-breaking at first glance, but by forming an entirely local partnership between landowner and community, the Lesmahagow community are generating energy, providing environmental services and profiting to the benefit of the local area.
Stewart Energy should act as an example to communities and landowners that are interested in renewable energy, alerting them to the possibilities of shared ownership and the benefits this can bring. By keeping renewable energy truly local, communities have a chance to empower themselves, develop their local area and enhance cohesion throughout the community.