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
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
Tommy McQuade, Morham and Brotchie, Quantity
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
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,
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