Sleat Community Trust is aiming to raise all £235,000 required to build a micro hydro scheme in Tormore Forest, Skye, through a community share offer.
Once completed, the 34 kW run-of-river micro hydro scheme – named Cumhachd Shlèite – will be owned and managed by Sleat Hydro Community Benefit Society.
The trust, which is developing the project, launched the offer at the start of December – it’s open to anyone over 16 in the UK, with a minimum investment of just £250 required.
So far, funding has passed the £100,000 mark, with over £78,000 of that coming from Sleat residents.
The aim is raise the full £235,000 needed for the build through community shareholders only and no external funding.
“We felt the community share model is the one that most involves everyone in the community,” explains Kenny Nicolson, 23, Project Officer.
“We’re not asking for charity, it’s an investment to be a part of a community initiative which we felt was the best way to bring our community together, and increase awareness of environmental issues.”
The share offer will close on January 31st (although the deadline could be extended if the target isn’t met by then) and the plan is to start the 10-week construction in April 2021.
Once complete, the scheme will generate 148,000 kWh of clean renewable energy each year to sell to the National Grid, with accreditation on the Feed-in Tariff already guaranteeing payments for this.
Environmentally, this will help reduce Sleat’s carbon footprint.
But the hydro scheme will also positively impact the community, as all profits will be donated to Sleat Community Trust to fund other sustainable developments and local projects.
Profit projections are over £158,000 during the first 20 years. This high return is partly down to the fact that Tormore Forest was purchased by Sleat Community Trust in 2011, meaning that even more of the revenue generated stays within the local area.
Meanwhile, the goal is for community shareholders to get as much back as possible. This is why the trust will also offer shareholders annual interest payments on their investment – it will pay up to 4% from 2023.
A community effort
All investors in the community share offer will become members of the Sleat Hydro Community Benefit Society, which will run and manage the completed hydro scheme.
As a one-member-one-vote society, everyone will get equal voting rights no matter what they invest, whether it’s the minimum £250 or maximum £25,000.
“The project is all about building community wealth while remaining sustainable – even the name, Cumhachd Shlèite, which means Sleat Power in Gaelic, was decided by the community,” says Kenny.
“Besides the hydro power, it’s about the collective power that will be given to our community to help shape its direction after the pandemic. Inspired by the work of Tom Johnston, we think that our potential for renewable energy in the Highlands should be utilised for the benefit of all who live here”.
The hope is to get as much of the community as possible involved, with people of all ages working together on a project designed to benefit everyone now and in the future.
Drumfearn resident and mum of two Laura recently bought shares for her young children and said: “We wanted to support the hydro project and we thought buying shares in our kids names was a nice way to do it. As a gift for them for the future and at the same time benefitting the community. It’s a really positive project to feel a part of at this time.”
Meanwhile, Isleornsay resident, 21 year old Lucy, said: “I’ve invested in the project because I want to support the community and see it progress in new ways and I think renewable energy is a great way to develop for the future.”
Part of the reason for choosing the community share model was seeing its success in other place in the Highlands, like Applecross.
Hopefully, the success of Cumhachd Shlèite will inspire others to take a similar community share approach.
“The fact that this is all being managed by ourselves and the Sleat community gives a lot of our confidence to other communities on Skye. To achieve this by ourselves, without relying on state backing, would be pretty incredible,” adds Kenny.
In the meantime, Sleat Community Trust is also continuing to forge ahead with its other vital work in the local area. This includes finalising the £910k redevelopment of Armadale Trading, which involves a shop, Post Office, fuel station and office space.
For more information on the benefits and risks of the community share offer, please get in touch with Kenny Nicolson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07497 737117.