The biggest community wind farm in the UK is being planned for Cove – and it promises to generate millions for local causes.
The Cove Community Wind Farm is the brainchild of the Rosneath Peninsula West Community Development Trust, which is holding a public meeting on Saturday to outline the project.
The five turbines would be wholly owned by the trust, with all income going to benefit the villages of Cove, KIlcreggan, Peaton and Portkil.
The site near the Barbour Road (see the map at the end of this article) would connect to the national grid at Whistlefield, delivering 11.5MW.
Currently the largest community wind farm in Britain is the 6.5MW Westmill farm in Oxfordshire.
A 9MW scheme is planned for Lewis, but the Cove site would set a new record.
Trust convener Murdo MacDonald said because no developers were involved the financial benefits would be maximised: “For a wee community to be doing this is astonishing.
“This has been extremely difficult but we have got good people on the team – not only have they got the talent, but they are prepared to spend the time.
“We are making no assumptions about things like planning permission and grid connection – there are huge steps still to go, but we have come a long way in two years.”
The project will be financed by borrowing £15m from a bank. The aim is to generate between £300,000 and £400,000 annually during the first 15 years while the loan is repaid.
The income would be higher for the next five years but then fall with the loss of government subsidy.
It follows a community action plan last year which identified problems including a lack of both sheltered and affordable housing, few sporting venues and limited business and tourism opportunities.
Volunteers have been going from door to door distributing ballot forms asking whether residents if they support the plan, and a public meeting will be held in Cove Burgh Hall on October 20 from 1-5pm, with a briefing at 3pm.
Mr MacDonald said the location was chosen to minimise the visual impact, as well as taking wildlife into account: “If we were simply looking to maximise power they would be higher up on the hill.”
The wind farm would not be visible from Helensburgh, Rhu or Shandon, but would be seen from villages across Loch Long such as Blairmore, Strone and Ardentinny.
Photographs showing its visual impact will be on display at the public meeting.
Mr MacDonald said trust directors would be going to meet community councils and development trusts in neighbouring areas to explain what they are doing.
“We are doing this because our community here is struggling,” he said.
“We discovered a huge demographic hole with 20-30 year-olds so we are trying to put some more affordable housing in. This is the best answer we can come up with and we hope they can support us.
“I am not doing this to save the planet – I’m doing it to save our villages.”