The company behind the Halsary wind farm, south of Spittal, is due to launch its community charity fund soon and says it will support ‘the people and communities of Caithness’.
But ScottishPower Renewables would not be drawn to a claim by Thurso and North West Caithness Highland councilor Donnie Mackay that cheaper energy bills ‘would be more useful to the people of Caithness than community funds from wind farms “.
The company welcomed the UK government’s energy security strategy – launched last week – which further supports renewables and other energy sources, including nuclear.
ScottishPower Renewables recognizes the impact of rising energy prices on household finances and is ready “to deliver more projects and help break the link between UK energy consumption and the volatility of the gas market, which drives up people’s bills”.
A company spokeswoman said: “We have been working closely with local communities and community councils to agree the framework for the Halsary Community Benefit Fund, which will be launched shortly, and we are in the final stages of signature of the relevant agreements.
“We look forward to launching the fund and supporting the people and communities of Caithness.”
Mr Mackay, who is not standing in next month’s local elections, made his comments at the latest Castletown and District Community Council meeting during a discussion on funding for the Halsary wind farm, south of Spittal .
The development of 15 turbines, which can generate enough electricity to power nearly 20,000 homes, represents a £37million investment in the Highlands and will result in a community benefit fund for the region.
As reported last week, Mr Mackay said it would help people more if money from community benefit funds was used to help lower local people’s bills at a time of rising energy costs.
He said: “It would be much better if people had cheaper electricity. Everyone in the community would benefit.
Community council secretary Liz Geddes agreed – as did other members – and said: “That would be a good idea, but they won’t.”
Thurso-based community campaigner Alexander Glasgow, a candidate for the Thurso and North West Caithness Highland Council seat, does not believe the cutback schemes would work as they would involve ‘complex negotiations’ involving dedicated staff.
He said: “Maybe the funds could have been put together differently at the start, but here we are. We have to work with the tools we have.”
The Halsary wind farm, which was built to help meet the green energy needs of the Tesco supermarket, was developed under a power purchase agreement (PPA), making it the world’s first wind farm ScottishPower Renewables to be built without a government support scheme.
PPAs allow developers to invest in and build new green infrastructure projects, while corporate clients get a clean source of energy and a reduction in their carbon footprint.