Exclusive – UK’s largest community wind farm planned

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.”

The five turbines would follow a contour line near the Barbour Road

37 Comments

  1. Interesting! If this goes ahead (and I can’t see the national park or its residents being keen) the money would take some spending – it’s tens of millions!
    And how would they ensure these affordable homes remain for locals’ use? Everyone will want to live in the richest village in Scotland

    • The housing section of the development plan(the plan can be found on the website ) talks about a housing association controlling the dwellings; presumably they would be retained by some kind of shared ownership arrangement; after all the idea is to provide accommodation for people who cannot otherwise afford to buy here.

  2. Thanks DB – how many houses are we talking about?
    I hope it means we’ll finally get rid of the knotweed as the council efforts are a joke, it looks like they killed the wrong plants!

  3. Very interesting proposals. As someone who’s flat looks directly over towards the Rosneath Peninsula, the visual impact from Gourock and Inverclyde is not mentioned – has the time come when the view is polluted by these things spinning away in unspoilt country ? Time will tell, hopefully not, but I can understand, and support the proposals in principal.

    In terms of filling the demographic hole however, the wind farm, or most of the other plans do little to encourage me to move into the area. I have looked at a couple of properties in the last year on the peninsula, but ultimately, the lack of reliable transport is the killer. A journey time of 1 hour is acceptable to Glasgow, but with the current ferry being inherently unreliable, and having no wish to drive to Helensburgh and then train, Cove and Kilcreggan remain unattractive.

    Has a trick been missed here? Could a further option be to take control of the ferry service in some way and have it run by and for the community using existing funding? Having read the various proposals, I have no doubt there is the right people with the right skills to make this work.

    Cove and Kilcreggan are beautiful places and very attractive, but remain, for a young professional, just too remote. As they say – so neaar, but so far.

    • Jamie:
      Pictures in a format dictated by the SNH and Society of Directors of Planning show the projected impact from several places including hills above Greenock, and these will be available at the meeting. They may include the view from shore-level at Gourock but I’m not sure and will check this out. I hope to make them available online in the near future but it’s problematic because the format recommended by those bodies means the actual image size of the turbine blades would be very small and hard to see online.

    • A pertinent observation; some of the proceeds could be used to subsidise the ferry link, but I think that kind of thing needs to wait until there’s a disposable income stream. In the meantime we need to lobby SPT to do their job properly; the ferry ran fine for decades providing a reliable service that commuters could and did rely on, what has changed?

    • The turbines will be visible from Gourock and photomontages showing these views will be available at the public meeting on Saturday at Cove Burgh Hall (1 till 5 pm with briefing at 3pm.) The distance and design of the wind farm minimise visual impact from Gourock and it is not believed that folk will feel offended.

  4. For DB again: thanks. Presumably these would go on some of the sites already allocated for housing that the council man seemed so unfamiliar with this summer:)

  5. Hope we get the community petrol station btw and sorry it isn’t mentioned in the leaflet – sick of 35 mile round trips just to get fuel!

  6. Don’t want to be as seen as trying to profit from other people’s work but the farm will affect folk in Rosneath, Clynder, Mamber, Garelochhead etc so i hope it won’t just be the places mentioned that benefit

    • The RPWCDT are actively looking at addressing this point; as profit is generated I think it’s reasonable to assume that the whole peninsula will benefit.

      • The Rosneath Peninsula West Trust Board has actually been concerned to consider how to share the benefits of Cove Wind Farm income, and is at the point of meeting with representative bodies in neighbouring communities to talk about its external community benefit policy and the overall development. If we can deliver this project, we believe that the whole peninsula will benefit.

    • The model is for 5 turbines each of which is 92.5m in height.

      If you can get to the public meeting zak there will be photomontages on show and a presentation with the photomontages on it. Also to be clear these are all taken from locations which we have been told to take them from by various bodies. (i.e. we didn’t decide where to take them from to try and reduce the visual impact which I appreciate some people might suspect)

      The Board’s opinion is that they are not obtrusive from a visual impact perspective and that is the feedback we have received so far. Our land visual impact assessment has also been subject to two independent audits and both, in addition to the original one, came to the same conclusion that visual impact was not a material concern.

  7. Really not trying to be negative here and I know people have worked very hard. But the leaflet that came through my door did use the phrase ‘hoped to’ rather a lot, which is worrying.
    A couple of questions:
    What was the question in the previous ‘poll’ which led to a 90% yes?
    I assume the landowner will profit? No criticism of him at all, but will ‘all income go to the community’?
    The leaflet!s view of priorities is a bit different from the results of the previous ‘survey’. No mention of knotweed or petrol, lots of houses. Contrary to the impression given, the school is not currently under threat
    Really not trying to decry things and I know people have worked hard. But the facts supplied serm a bit selective

    • Well said – you are making some very relevant points.
      I notice the reply does not answer your questions – I would also like to know more about the stats – 1500 population, 90% positive should mean that 1350 are in favour, but there were only 435 returns – possibly 90% of those (392 were in favour?)
      The CAP also states that-
      “COMMUNITY SURVEY
      There were no questions directly relating to renewable energy in the
      community survey. However, nine respondents commented on the
      benefits that renewable energy could bring to the Peninsula West area
      including keeping fuel costs low and improving the appearance of the area”

      – not a huge majority!- and it’s the first time I’ve heard of a wind farm ‘improving’ the appearance of an area as well.
      The school question is also very relevant – the Rural schools commission is due to report shortly, but I believe our school was removed from the ‘under threat’ list some time ago.

      • Zak,

        First of all just to point out that Andrew has responded to the post above and you can see his response at the bottom.

        In terms of the first ballot the exact figures you are looking for are that 38.7% of our community voted, with 92% of these in favour (slight error in Andrew’s below where he states 90%). We would have loved for the 38.7% figure to be higher and the Trust did all it could do to achieve that including knocking on every door in our area to ask people to complete the ballot. We can’t force people to return ballots as I am sure you will recognise and it is worth pointing out that a 38.7% return is higher than the average for local elections!

        We would very much hope to achieve a higher return for the current ballot and I take this opportunity to encourage people to complete their ballot forms and hand them in at the Cove or Kilcreggan post office. Or, alternatively, come along to the public meeting this Saturday, hear what the Trust has to say and see the photomontages and then vote.

        The idea of it helping improve the appearance of the villages is that some of the money generated will be spent on projects that are focused on achieving exactly that.
        On the schools issue the commission is due to report soon and our school was taken off the list under threat at the same time that the proposals for closure for all the threatened A&B schools was abandoned however that does not mean it is safe (just as no other school is safe). The threat of school closures will always hang over small rural schools and it our belief that by making our villages more attractive to incomers, especially those with families, we will help reduce the threat to our school by making it more sustainable.

  8. I think the object is that the other CDT objectives will be that bit more achievable once the the wind farm is in place, it will provide a financial fulcrum from which other developments can be leveraged, as few of the other objectives are revenue earning and none are on the scale of the wind farm.

  9. Thanks for your comments. The Trust Board is looking for them, and is keen to take on board any suggestions or comments, and answer as many questions as possible.
    The reason that the leaflet uses the phrase ‘hopes to’ is that, although huge progress has been made, there are still significant outstanding matters and until the first spade is in the ground we remain cautious but quietly optimistic However the Board has already managed many hurdles successfully and is confident that these outstanding matters will be overcome.
    At this point, the Trust board is looking to update the community and get support for moving onto the next stage. The statement in the previous poll, which people were asked to agree or disagree was,” In order to fund the projects emerging from the Community Development Plan, the Community Development Trust should investigate the feasibility of one or more community-owned wind turbines on the peninsula.” 90% ticked the box to say, Yes I agree.
    In relation to your second question, all of the profit, after the trust meets its liabilities will be used for community benefit. The main liability will be to service the loan however this will still leave a very healthy sum of money to be invested in community projects (the Trust is projecting between £300,000 and £400,000 in years 1 to 15 with this increasing in years 15-20 once the debt is paid off, and decreasing in years 20-25 once the government subsidy comes to an end).
    Finally, your concern about only selective facts being used in the leaflet with no mention of certain specific local priorities. The space available on the leaflet made it impossible to cover everything, but the main guide to future developments still remains the Community Action Plan, which is available on the Trust website and reflects an extensive process of community consultation.

    • You mention in years 20-25 the goverment subsdy comes to an end. This week it was annonced that the goverment might cut subsidies to wind farms, what effect would this have on the project and has this been taken into consideration.

      • The reduction in the subsidy has already been set for the next 18 months and the finance of the project is based on that level of subsidy; if planning is granted it is intended that the windfarm will be operational before any further reductions take place. Once the windfarm is operational its subsidy level is fixed for 20 years.

      • You state that it is intended to have the farm up and running before any further reductions. There are no garantees for this though, i work in this industry and we have just completed 2 farms off Great Yarmouth and both were nearly 19 months over time. What would happen in this situation?

      • The Trust is aware of the potential cuts in subsidies. Even with the proposed cuts, or if they are more substantial than the current projected cuts, the financial model for the wind farm is still secure. Obviously the overall revenue would decrease however it would still generate more than enough income to cover all liabilities and generate considerable net profit for community benefits.

        Clearly we would like to be operational before the cuts and that is what we are working hard to achieve however if it is delayed beyond the cuts kicking in then the finances are still secure.

        So yes this has been taken into consideration.

      • The site access is straightforward and the bedrock is under a fairly thin layer of soil, so construction should be rapid; if planning is obtained it could be up and running in a few months. Comparing the construction of this project with an offshore windfarm is a little unfair, the difficulties faced at sea are much greater.

      • The project was delayed during several stages, but this wasen’t due to the location. Firstly by planning applications then project cost rising throughout, these having to be re-negotiated between contractor and client. Even when these were fixed at the start of the contract, the price of steel over the period nearly doubled in cost and therefore the project would not have been completed unless the cost was re adjusted.
        All that i’m trying to say even when the contract has been signed and cost ed, this is no guarantee. You can have as many clauses as you want in a contract they will protect a project to a certain degree. But if it ends up costing the contractor over his budget then contracts just simply get dragged out until an agrrement is made between all interested parties. Over the last six years i have seen this happen on many occasions, the contracts eventually get completed. However it is the time it take for these problems to be overcome and the extra cost on all sides.

  10. I thought that was very productive; views for and against(mostly for), with pertinent questions asked. Not all could be answered there and then but the CDT have agreed to make more information available on the website, particularly the environmental impact assessment. I was firmly in favour before, so my opinion is partial, but the presentation answered the few questions I had. I await the results of the poll with interest.

    • A report on today’s meeting will appear on this website tomorrow (Sunday); the meeting was lengthy and more comments were made than could realistically be reported, but I will try to include as much as possible.

    • In addition I am working to make the photomontages available on the website. Only technical hitch so far is the file sizes however I will hopefully find a way around this and make them available by the end of this week.

  11. The opinions of the folk in Blairmore and Strone will be interesting, as it is they who will have the clearest view of the windmills.

  12. Well I will try this blog after trying 3 and emailing the trust on numerous occasions!!!! NOTHING why is the TRUST ignoring perfectly good questions relating to the proposed WF. When i said it was closed doors and secretive I was told by someone “You will be talking aliens next” probably more chance than getting a reply from them. Guess what I’m a member of the trust but still nothing!!! If anyone has any ideas where they have gone let me know.

    G Walker

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