Highland communities in £28m funding boost

Highland communities will benefit to the tune of £28millon thanks to Britain’s newest onshore wind farm, built by SSE Renewables.

SSE has completed the construction and commissioning of the £350m Stronelairg Wind Farm, near Fort Augustus. Its 66 turbines can generate enough energy to power 160,000 homes.

To celebrate culmination of the project it’s created the Stronelairg Community Development Fund, offering one of the biggest cash injections the Highlands has seen.  It will take SSE’s total community benefit contribution in the area more than £80 million.

The fund will make a significant impact helping develop rural infrastructure, community projects and skills and development opportunities throughout the Great Glen.

Everything from new medical facilities, to sports hubs, to skills and training initiatives, can apply for support, with £1,183,500 being handed out every year for 25 years.

Jim Smith, SSE Renewables Managing Director Designate, said: “Completion of the wind farm early and on budget is testament to the skills of the teams involved and of course we thank the local community for their support.

“SSE Renewables is intrinsically connected to the Highlands, we’re committed to supporting the communities we’re part of and firmly believe locals should share in the economic benefits renewable energy creates.

“The fund is a significant contribution to the local economy with the ability to change lives and we look forward to seeing this money invested in a wide range of projects and facilities which will deliver a real and sustained benefit for decades to come.

“Our history is in the Highlands and we’ve been contributing to these communities for over 70 years and we look forward to making a real difference for many more years to come.”

Villages across the Great Glen will benefit from the guaranteed cash.  While other funding streams are being cut or lost completely, this fund is easily accessible and comes with application support from SSE.

Money will also be added to SSE Renewables’ Highland Sustainable Development Fund which supports strategic projects to allow the benefits of renewable energy developments to be shared across the region and achieve significant impact.  The fund will invest £50m over 25 years across the Highlands.

Drew Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, joined children from Foyers Primary School to launch the fund on the banks of Loch Ness alongside Prof James Hunter, SSE Sustainable Development Fund panel member and Morven Smith, Head of Community Investment.

Drew Hendry said: “This new fund is fantastic news for communities throughout the Great Glen, especially at a time when so many local groups are struggling to find the money needed to progress their projects.

“Access to this fund will enable our communities to develop infrastructure, improve services and invest in projects to benefit the people living and working in the local area. It really is a great opportunity for local people to bring their ideas to improve their community to life.

“This investment from SSE is also a great example of how renewable energy projects are not only delivering to meet our current energy needs and future carbon targets, they are also greatly benefiting our rural economy.”

Stronelairg Wind Farm sits on the Garrogie estate, south east of Fort Augustus and next to SSE’s Glendoe hydro scheme. It’s sensitively sited well back from Loch Ness so that no turbines are visible from the main tourist routes. Construction began in April 2017 and it’s now fully operational and exporting clean power to the UK national grid.

An annual payment of £569,250 will be made available to the local communities across Stratherrick and Foyers, Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston, Laggan, Spean Bridge, Roybridge and Achnacarry, Glengarry with a further £569,250 going to SSE’s regional Highland Sustainable Development Fund to help strategic projects.  The Stronelairg Fund will contribute a total of £28 million to the area over the next 25 years.