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Wind farm wind falls should bring socio-economic benefits to Caithness

30th June 2013

Youth employment opportunities, tourism initiatives, improved transport links and support for businesses came out top in a recent survey to find out what wind farm windfalls should be spent on in Caithness in the future.

Not surprisingly, the Caithness Conversation Community Profile suggests that a high percentage of the funds should be spent on communities nearest the wind farm but the idea of setting aside a smaller pot of funds for county-wide initiatives was also supported. A majority of respondents also felt that the distribution of funds should be administered locally by communities themselves with dedicated support.

Commissioned earlier this year by one of the UKs leading wind farm developers, RWE npower renewables, the profile is a summary of opinion and comment made by over 320 residents and more than 34 local organisations in response to eight key questions posed as part of the Caithness Conversation. Each question related to how community funds linked to wind farms could best be used to support the area. The research was carried out by independent grant making charity Foundation Scotland.

Moving forward, RWE npower renewables will consider the reports recommendations as to how best support Caithness communities in the development and distribution of renewables community benefit funds in the future. These include supporting a working group to progress the ideas and suggestions from the Caithness Conversation; to look at ways of sharing good practice, and initiate a round table discussion with other renewables developers.

Alan Johnston, RWE npower renewables Community Investment Officer, said: The Caithness Conversation gave participants the opportunity to reflect on experience to date and to begin planning how future wind farm funds might best be applied. We hope both participants and the wider community find the profile to be a valuable resource. We are looking forward to continuing to work with Caithness communities to ensure that renewables community benefit funds create a positive legacy for the area.

Rachel Searle-Mbullu of Foundation Scotland said: There was a resounding view that this unprecedented opportunity for spending community benefit funds linked to renewables projects within Caithness needs to be maximised.

Foundation Scotland has outlined six recommendations which we believe should be considered when future community benefit fund arrangements are being implemented. I think it is important to note that there is not one correct way of distributing such funds however whether for a local fund or a Caithness-wide fund either or both approaches should always be communityled.

Local people were invited to participate in the region-wide event through the completion of a questionnaire, attending a focus groups or one-to-one interviews and by chatting through their opinions at two Caithness Cafs run in Thurso and Wick respectively.

Key findings are discussed in-depth in the Caithness Conversation Community Profile, which also includes a socio-economic report of Caithness and an overview of current community fund arrangements. The report is available for download from www.npower-renewables.com/caithnessconversation

RWE NRL invests more than 75,000 per annum in Caithness through community funds associated with its wind farms. The company operates Bilbster and Causeymire wind farms, has gained consent for other wind farms in the area, and is in the process of applying for planning consent for Bad Che Wind Farm.

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