Cash pours in for Ullapool hydro bid
A Ross-shire community is nearly halfway towards a £900,000 fundraising bid to build its own hydro power scheme.
A community share offer, called BroomPower, was launched in Ullapool at the beginning of May to raise the funds needed to construct the scheme at Lael, south of the village.
The project would see the hydro power of the Allt a’Mhuilinn burn used to produce electricity which would then be sold to the National Grid. The income would support a wide range of community projects in the Ullapool and Lochbroom areas.
People are being offered shares for a minimum investment of £300 up to a maximum of 90,000.
This week, the total raised through the share offer stood at £410,850 ahead of the August 31 deadline.
Neil Gerrard, a director of Lochbroom Community Renewables Ltd which runs BroomPower, said: "We’re almost halfway there. Things are really accelerating now and we’re very hopeful we will reach the target by August 31.
"From talking to people who set up similar community energy projects, we know that it all happens in the last week or two.
"For instance at Applecross, half of their investment came in the last week."
Mr Gerrard said if the £900,000 target was not achieved by August 31, the deadline could be extended.
"It’s an option but not one we will take lightly because we have all been doing this for quite a few months," he said.
"If we were just a little short of the target it’s something we might do. If it’s a long way short, then we might have to think of other options."
In the event of the plan having to be dropped, all the investors will be refunded in full.
The hydro scheme was initiated after a survey by Ullapool Community Trust revealed strong support in the area for an entirely community-owned renewable energy scheme.
Mr Gerrard, a former community energy manager with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, believes the share offer is an attractive investment opportunity for folk.
He said: "It’s costing them nothing other than lending us money for a period of time until the scheme is built. After that they will get a four per cent return per annum from their investment. The surplus will go to community benefit and the more it rains, the more community benefit there will be.
"Further down the line and the way the industry is going, we think it will open up completely so we would be able to sell direct to customers such as local businesses who use more power.
"That means that we get a retail, rather than a wholesale, price for our electricity and earn more from the scheme than originally planned."
The forecast is that the scheme would make at least £500,000 in community benefit in its first 20 years, continuing for as long as the hydro operates.
Sandy Mackenzie, also a director of Lochbroom Community Renewables Ltd who has worked in the water industry for 27 years, said the share offer was being complemented by the opening of a new local fundraising shop, New Broom.
Mr Mackenzie said: "We have secured a short-term lease on the premises from a local businessman with a view to purchasing it on behalf of the community.
"But it is more than a shop. It is a hub for the community and people can come in and get information about the hydro scheme and the share offer. There’s a great buzz about the shop and in just six weeks it has proved to be very successful. It’s a very exciting time for Ullapool."
For more information about BroomPower and to buy shares in the scheme, go to www.broompower.org.