Money flows in for community hydro scheme

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A west Highland community has raised almost £200,000 towards an £850,000 community hydro-electric scheme in the first six week after launching its shares offer.

And it is now hoping its Christmas card – bearing the words “let it flow, let it flow, let it flow” – will encourage even more people to invest in the scheme.

Sunart Community Renewables, the community benefit society behind the project, intends to harness the untapped power source of the Allt nan Cailleach, which flows right through the community, by building a 100KW hydro scheme in Strontian.

It set itself a target of raising £284,000 to enable it to go ahead with building the hydro scheme. The rest would be financed with a loan.

But it is now hoping that it will be able to raise more money from shares.

The group’s project manager Dale Meegan today said: “We’re very pleased with the way fund-raising is going and we now know we will be able to go ahead with the scheme.

“We’ve raised more than £140,000 from the sale of shares to individuals and we’ve just had confirmation of a £50,000 investment from the Co-operative and Community Finance fund.

“The more we can raise from selling shares, the less we will need to borrow and the more money that will be available to spend on community projects.”

All the electricity generated, around 400,000 KWh per year, will be sold to the national grid and all surpluses will be donated to a local community benefit fund.

Ms Meegan added that, so far, 66 people had bought shares and almost two thirds of them lived in Lochaber.

She said: “We’re hoping the Christmas cards will encourage people’s families and friends to invest in shares and I’ve even had a few people saying they are buying shares as Christmas presents this year.”

Shares, ranging from a minimum of £300 to a maximum of £100,000, are available to anyone aged 16 or over and each shareholder has one vote regardless of how much they invest.

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Dave Thompson, who recently invested in shares in the scheme, said: “I support this exciting project as it will help in our drive towards a more sustainable future and will help to raise money for local projects in the process.”