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Frequently asked questions about the Gigha Windmills

The Dancing Ladies of Gigha

1.   What are the Gigha windmills?

The Gigha windmills comprise three, pre-commissioned (that's second hand to you and me!) Vestas V27 wind turbines, each with an installed capacity of 225 kilowatts. Each turbine stands on a three section, 30 metre, rolled steel tower, set on steel reinforced foundations. Three glass fibre blades are fitted to each machine, measuring 13.5 metres in length, giving a swept area diameter of 27 metres (hence the V27 in the manufacturers name). The windmills are medium sized by modern standards and whilst they are significant structures in their own right, they sit particularly well within the small island landscape.

2.   Second-hand you say, is this wise?

Yes. Since many smaller windfarms across Europe are now ‘powering up', replacing medium sized turbines with much larger machines, there is a good availability of second hand turbines many with significant remaining design lives. The Gigha Windmills, for example, were earlier turning at Windcluster's Haverigg 1, windfarm in Cumbria and each have eight years of their design life left.

3.   Does this mean the Gigha Windfarm will be all worn out in eight years?

No. Apart from the windmills themselves all the other equipment (cabling, substation, transformer, switchgear etc) is brand new. Over the first eight years of the project, the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust will build up a capital reinvestment fund, sufficient to replace all the second hand equipment. Given the V27's reputation as the ‘Honda 125' of the wind turbine world (BSA Bantam for the more mature observer - Willie!), properly maintained, we expect the windmills to last significantly longer than their original design life.

4.   Why are they so special?

Gigha's windmills are ground breaking. This is Scotland 's first community owned, grid connected, windfarm. Perhaps even more significantly, the financial model that has been developed to underpin the project is very robust and capable of widespread replication by communities throughout Scotland . In this way we anticipate that where Gigha's ‘dancing ladies' have led the way, many more community windfarms will follow.

5.   And what is this financial model?

Put simply, the model comprises a three-way mix of grant funding, loan finance and equity finance. In Gigha's case, grants of £50,000 and £82,000 where secured from the Fresh Futures, Sustainable Communities Project Fund (National Lottery funding administered by Forward Scotland) and the Scottish Community and Householder Renewables Initiative (Scottish Executive money administered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise), commercial loan finance of £148,000 was provided by Social Investment Scotland and equity holdings of £80,000 and £40,000 were taken by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust. Total capital cost, therefore, is £440,000.

The loan will be repaid over a five year period at a fixed rate of interest, with the equity currently held by HIE bought back by the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust in year five. Furthermore, over the first eight years of the project, a capital reinvestment fund of approximately £160,000 will be built up, sufficient to replace the wind turbines (blades, nacelles, gearboxes, generators etc) when required.

With the exception of the grant funding, the project is a purely commercial one. The loan is at commercial rates and the equity held by HIE comprises shares upon which a 6% dividend is paid. The capital reinvestment fund ensures that the windfarm is financially sustainable, providing a pot of money sufficient to replace the machines when required, without recourse to further grant, equity or loan finance.

6.   How much power do they produce?

Given the prevailing wind conditions on the Isle of Gigha, (you may have noticed we have a very good wind resource!) we estimate that the three windmills combined will produce approximately 2.1 gigawatt hours of electricity a year, approximately two thirds of the island's electricity requirements. This makes the Gigha windmills a small, but locally significant, producer of electricity.

7.   What does that mean in cash terms?

Well, based on our own projections, (which we have abstracted from anemometer readings taken over the last two years and the rate per unit agreed with Green Energy, our power purchaser) we estimate an gross annual income of £150,000. After all running costs (including maintenance, rates and insurance etc), the creation of the capital sinking fund, the loan repayments and equity re-purchase, the net profit for each of the first eight years is approximately £75,000 per annum.

8.   But I thought windfarms were unpopular.

Whilst there may be a small but vocal minority opposed to windfarms elsewhere, all major decisions on the community owned Isle of Gigha are made by the community. In this way a well-attended trip to a nearby windfarm was arranged by the Trust and a full discussion and debate held, culminating in a meeting at the Gigha Village Hall where the vote in favour of the windmills was 100%.

9.   And who made it all happen?

The Gigha Windmills have been the result of a tremendous amount of hard work. In particular the Directors of the Trust and its subsidiary company, Gigha Renewable Energy Ltd, would like to thank:-

 

•  Steven Watson, Bob MacIlwraith and colleagues at Alienergy, facilitators and early funders.
•  Nicholas Gubbins, Eric Dodd and colleagues at HIE, ‘Fix It Men' and grant / equity Funders
•  Iain Roxburgh and colleagues at Forward Scotland, (very patient!) grant funders
•  David Herd, Lindsay Plenderleith and colleagues at Social Investment Scotland, loan funders
•  Paul O'Brian and colleagues at Argyll and the Islands Enterprise (AIE), facilitators.
•  Dr Colin Anderson author of the initial feasibility study and Technical Adviser.
•  Charlie Robb, Element Engineering, Technical Adviser.
•  Tommy McQuade, Morham and Brotchie, Quantity Surveyor.
•  Steven MacGregor, Isabel Ewing and colleagues at TC Young, solicitors.
•  Colin Palmer, Managing Director, Windcluster, supplier of turbines
•  Mark Van Grieken and colleagues at Land Use Consultants Ltd, Visual Impact Analysis
•  Fiona Baker, Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey.
•  The West of Scotland Archaeology Service, comment and advice.
•  Stan Phillips and Blair Urqhart, Scottish Natural Heritage, comment and advice.
•  Richard Kerr, Peter Bain and colleagues, Planners, Argyll and Bute Council, outstanding professionalism
•  Rob Broughton and colleagues, Scottish and Southern Energy, connection agreement.
•  Don Mackay, Don Smith and colleagues at Ken Hope Ltd, civils contracting
•  Ian Postlthwaite, Bryan Rhodes, Nigel Storey and colleagues at Agrilek, electricals contracting
•  Bobby Wylie, Mike James and colleagues at Vestas, commissioning and maintenance.
•  Archie and Billy MacFadyen of MacFadyens, quarrying contractors.
•  Ramsay Dunning of Green Energy, power purchaser
•  Charlie Richardson of nsure, insurer
•  The management and crew of Caledonian MacBrayne, additional unscheduled crossings at a particularly crucial time
•  Strathclyde Fire Brigade, loan of the fire engine at a particularly crucial time
•  John Bonnar, Masters Student, who initially assessed technical viability
•  The Islanders of Gigha, without whom none of this would have happened

 

 

 


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