Community and cultural development

Coigach turbine pays off

A £1.8 million ambitious and complex project to install a community wind turbine in a remote part of Wester Ross is starting to pay off. The turbine was procured by the Coigach Community Development Company (CCDC), a group supported by HIE.

It is owned and managed by Coigach Community CiC, a subsidiary set up by CCDC, and is believed to be the first large community-owned turbine in mainland Highland.

The turbine is now producing power which is supplied to the National Grid and is forecast to bring over £2 million of community benefit funds over its 20 year life. The income will be used to improve local services and infrastructure, help establish new businesses, provide bursaries and fund training for all ages.

Often referred to by the name of its main village, Achiltibuie, the Coigach Peninsula covers 15,500 hectares including around 20 small islands known as the Summer Isles and is designated a National Scenic Area. It is characterised by rugged coastline, high mountains and large stretches of boggy moorland. The total population is 271.

Since joining HIE’s Community Account Management programme in 2010, CCDC has been able to appoint two part time Local Development Officers (LDOs) to take forward a range of projects with potential to generate income and improve sustainability. These focus on renewables, provision of commercial premises, housing, tourism (including piers and harbours), land and environment.

In addition to support the LDO salaries, HIE has also been able to help fund costs of feasibility studies and technical consultations for the turbine. The commencement of power, and therefore income, generation from the turbine is a significant step for the community.

Lindsay Simpson, development manager with HIE, said: “This is great news for Coigach residents. The income generated from the turbine will help accelerate progress with some of the other community projects in development, including support for young people. In time these will strengthen community resilience and the area’s attractiveness as a place to visit, live, work and study. We look forward to continuing to work with CCDC and supporting their development projects.”

Iain Muir, chairman of CCDC, said: “Like the road to Achiltibuie, the journey has been long, narrow and winding, and not without its pot-holes, precipitous roadside drops and things jumping out in front of us, but finally we’ve reached our goal and it’s fantastic to see the blades turning. It’s taken so many years of dedicated voluntary effort by members of the community as well as our staff. However, splendid though the turbine is, it’s simply a means to an end – its job is to generate funds for us to plough into our community to secure a bright future for present generations and those yet to come.”

Julia Campbell (CCDC Development Officer), Phil Shaughnessy (Director), 'Scout' (Collie dog), Anne Campbell (Development Officer), Ann Macleod (Director), Stuart MacPherson (HIE Head of Strengthening Communities), Lindsay Simpson (HIE Development Manager). Credit Malcolm McMurrah/HIE

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