Founded in 2020, we are a Community Benefit Society. Our aim is to enable community owned renewable energy on the Isle of Arran.
We started as a steering group working together as volunteers with the charity Arran Eco Savvy.
Arran Eco Savvy has been talking about and working towards a renewable energy project since its formation in 2013. The steering group for renewables has been active since late 2018 and in February 2020 we began to work on a proposal for this funding.
In 2018 we started our search for the best project to kickstart Arran Community Renewables. We considered a host of sites and technologies, speaking to the community, landowners and the local electricity operator alike. We learnt two main things:
Keep it simple. Great things come from humble beginnings. Without a track record we need to walk before we can run and this means keeping the first project technically simple to focus our efforts on eliminating risk and building confidence in the project partners and community share offer concept. Solar PV systems are well proven, have a developed supply chain, good product warranties and carry minimal planning risk compared to other options. The future may bring larger, more complex projects, but for now we know exactly what we're getting and can take these learnings forward.
Keep as much power as possible on site. This is crucial. Since the removal of Government incentives for renewable generation we are exposed to unsubsidised market prices and risk. Although a remote site can be a good use of land, revenues from selling electricity to the local grid can be less than half that of selling to a local energy user directly. Directly selling power also avoids expensive grid reinforcement costs and reduces the cost of energy for the offtaker.
The steering group wrote a proposal to conduct an island wide assessment of what is possible across all technologies. We were not successful in finding funding for this due to the scope being so wide, but we have spent a considerable amount of volunteer time working through different options ourselves.
Following consultations in 2019 and further workshops in early 2020 we were pleased to see renewable energy was the top of preferred future projects. We did intend to hold further workshop style events to progress the options that are viable but in spring this year that was clearly not possible. Work did continue through lockdown to identify projects and a wide range of different schemes have been considered.
Following this search the Auchrannie presented a great opportunity for our first project. It ticked both these boxes; the Sports Hall roof is well suited for solar panels and the adjacent Spa building has a year-round power demand that is well matched to the times when the panels will generate electricity. Unfortunately we have had to start to look beyond the Auchrannie site as increasing uncertainty around hospitality insurance presents an unforeseen considerable cost. Read more about the current situation here.
By working with our local partners we can finally progress what we would like to be the first of many projects. This will be the first community owned renewable energy on Arran and it has the potential to be a template for other high energy buildings on Arran to reduce their carbon emissions and help build a community benefit fund that can progress other environmental work.
The Project Proposal for Community Solar gives detail to this project and can be viewed here. The survey for businesses inviting them to enquire has been sent out with help from VisitArran. We look forward to finding the right site as soon as possible and welcome any questions from the community or businesses.
Community meetings and support have been positive with good feedback and questions
Amazing amount of work so far, good luck with it all.
"Thanks for a very informative event and a chance to hear about this exciting project"
"Loads of great work being done there. Thanks everyone for your commitment. Exciting project! "