Neilston set for £2m boost thanks to windfarm sale
The Herald, by Scott Wright
THE East Renfrewshire village of Neilston is poised to benefit from up to £2 million of investment in jobs, local facilities and services after the sale of a community-backed windfarm.
The boost follows the £22.6m disposal of the Neilston Community Wind Farm to The Renewables Infrastructure Group (TRIG), the green energy investment vehicle.
Launched in 2013, the four-turbine, 10 megawatt (MW) wind farm had been 28 per cent owned by the Neilston Development Trust (NDT), a social enterprise serving the village and residents of Neilston, and private developer Carbon Free. Its sale to renewables group TRIG, which operates a range of onshore wind farms across Scotland, will net NDT a surplus of around £2m after loans taken out to fund its share of the wind farm are repaid and legal costs are deducted.
No individual investors are understood to have made any personal windfalls as a result of the deal.
NDT said the scale of the return it has generated on the wind farm underlines the strength of the investment model it adopted, declaring that it achieved “substantially” higher payments for the local community than would have been gained through traditional community benefit models.
Gordon Keen, chief officer of NDT, said the trust took the decision to sell its stake in the wind farm because it had “found it difficult to manage the variations in income in light of the fixed interest loans we took out”.
The variation was partly down to changes in oil and gas prices, which at times have made other sources of energy cheaper, and the decision by the UK Government to axe subsidies for onshore wind projects, said Mr Keen, who noted that “this extended the period before funds could be made available for community projects and grants”.
He added: “By selling our share of the project to a well-regarded and experienced investor, the funds are guaranteed and available, when needed, to support the sustainable development of the community.
The £2m surplus, which will be used to create a charitable fund to invest in the sustainability of the village, is over and above the £400,000 already earned by the trust from the project in the last four years. Those earnings have contributed to the employment of staff and to provide services from NDT’s ‘Bank’ community facility. The trust acquired what had been the last remaining bank in the village in 2006 and turned it into a community resource, with facilities such as a café, meeting rooms, an office and gardens.
NDT said it will hold a community meeting to outline the plans for the new fund, which will be constituted as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation, on the evening of May 30.
The windfarm, which generates two and half times the annual electricity requirement for Neilston, joins an onshore renewable energy portfolio owned by TRIG across Scotland. In total it has a portfolio of 53 investment projects in onshore wind farms and solar PV (photo-voltaic) assets located across the UK, Ireland and France.
TRIG funded the acquisition from the proceeds of a recent equity raising exercise under its share issuance programme.