Islanders on Raasay have launched a £650,000 community share issue to help build two hydro schemes that will fund future projects locally.
The development will harness the combined potential of projects at Inverarish Burn and Mine Burn, generating, on average, 520,000kWh of electricity each year, translating to annual savings of 127 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Income from the community-owned generation schemes will help sustain the 170-strong population and support other initiatives.
In September last year, residents set up Raasay Community Renewables Ltd (RCR), a community benefit society to develop sustainable energy infrastructure projects. It sees the hydro schemes as the future to both environmentally sustainable power for the island as well as long term financial resilience.
Ross Gillies, a RCR director, said: “We have raised over £300,000 in grants to support the build and we need a further £650,000 to bring the project to completion. The community share offer is a fantastic opportunity to invest in social and environmental causes and see a financial return for your support in the years to come.”
A community benefit fund is being set up to distribute a proportion of the income generated to members of the community, supporting local organisations and causes, with a focus on environmentally beneficial initiatives.
The offer closes on February 23 and minimum investment for people in Raasay is £125 and for others £375, with a maximum investment of £65,000.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “A community hydro scheme has been a long time in the making for Raasay, and it was great to see the work starting on forestry. I know there is a lot of work to do – not least in raising funding – but it’s exciting to see this progress.
“I hope there will be widespread interest and the community will be able to reach their funding target in time.”
The project is backed by Community Shares Scotland, which was set up with funding from the Scottish Government and the National Lottery Community Fund and has supported about 400 community groups since 2014.
Morven Lyon, programme manager at Community Shares Scotland, said: “Since our inception, Community Shares Scotland has supported the launch of eight community-owned hydro schemes, raising a total £4.7 million from at least 1,659 shareholders.
“Raasay Community Hydro is a great example of the focus which the Scottish Government is placing on a ‘green recovery’ following the Covid-19 pandemic. Projects such as these are very well suited to the community share model, which taps into an appetite for socially conscious projects and investment models which deliver a renewed sense of community control and local identity.”
For every £1 invested by an individual in a community share offer in Scotland, at least £2 of additional funding has been leveraged through grants, loans and institutional investment.
Last year the Raasay scheme was one of the “transformational” projects across the Highlands to share £2.15 million from SSE Renewables’ Highland Sustainable Development Fund.