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North of Scotland Set to Benefit from 'Green' Fund

2nd June 2010

Caithness and North Sutherland businesses and communities are set to benefit from a newly established renewables fund that will go to helping them deliver 'green' sustainable projects.

The fund will be run by a subsidiary company established by Caithness Chamber of Commerce, with the intention that renewable energy developers within the Caithness and North Sutherland area eg wind, marine, tidal and biomass, will have the opportunity to pay into this. In turn this fund will provide convertible loans to help local companies and organisations. This could include assisting renewable technology businesses to develop new technologies, to supporting companies, organisations and communities with renewable energy projects such as the delivering of biomass or community turbines.

The Chamber's establishment of a company limited by guarantee that is a subsidiary will allow this company to leverage contributions from other companies and organisations that are not actively involved in renewables. It will also act as an eligible body for other funds and grants that can help businesses and communities.

Developers behind the consented Baillie and proposed Spittal Hill Wind Farms near Thurso, Steve and Tom Pottinger have announced that they will kick start the fund with a contribution of c. 25,000 per year from the 21 turbine Baillie Wind Farm. Baillie Wind Farm received approval in January 2010 and this contribution is over and above any commitment already made for the development, and is based on a payment of 500 per MW of installed capacity.

In addition, agreement has been reached with the Caithness Chamber of Commerce over ownership of a turbine at the proposed Spittal Hill Wind Farm to contribute into the fund. Should it receive planning consent, ownership of such a turbine has the potential to generate c. 50,000 per annum of benefit in the initial years, with the electricity it produces going to the National Grid to be bought by power companies. This figure will however increase to several hundred thousand pounds per annum thereafter, providing a major financial boost to the fund.

Ownership of a turbine at Spittal Hill to contribute to the fund will be in addition to local community ownership of a turbine recently agreed with Watten Community Council which has the potential to deliver a similar amount of funding for the local community.

A recent report, "Towards a Low Carbon Economy", highlights the fact that 26,000 jobs will be created in Scotland from the renewables sector alone by 2020 - including 20,000 from offshore wind and 2,600 from wave and tidal power. It states that there are already an estimated 70,000 jobs in the low carbon sector - accounting for 3% of employment in Scotland - meaning 130,000 people could be employed in green jobs by 2020.

It goes on to say that, within five years, the low-carbon goods and services sector will be worth about 12 billion to the Scottish economy.

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce commented:"We are all aware of the tremendous renewable energy potential in the north of Scotland, and the establishment of such a fund will assist communities and developers in the delivery of renewable energy projects. In addition there is also the potential for the fund to leverage funding from and contribute to non-renewable schemes. Clearly there is a concern about access to capital for many companies and organisations, and we hope the delivery of such a fund will assist in delivering projects throughout Caithness and North Sutherland."

Tom Pottinger of Baillie Wind Farm Ltd said:"We are delighted to make this contribution to kick-start a fund that will benefit Caithness and North Sutherland. Our contribution is clearly above and beyond the commitments we are already pledged to make and this concept is something we have long been committed to in order to benefit the whole area."

Rev Alastair Gray, Parish Minister of Bower and Watten and Halkirk-Westerdale said:
"I apporove of renewable energy generation in general, and I am especially pleased when it benefits the local community. The proposal of Tom and Steve Pottinger to give the Watten community a turbine in addition to a turbine to benefit Caithness and North Sutherland as a whole is a very generous offer and makes the advantages of the scheme outweigh any perceived drawbacks. Community life will benefit from generation for years to come."