Talking point: 10 years on, still turning
As one of the small CalMac island ferries makes a regular trip from the mainland across the Sound of Gigha, a familiar sight can be seen cutting the sky in the distance.
They are known on the Isle of Gigha as the ‘Dancing Ladies’ and since they were installed in 2003 have been producing energy for the National Grid – and more importantly, money to support the running of the island.
Gigha is marking 10 years since a community buyout put the residents in charge and the three turbines – the controlling trust wants to buy a fourth – are a central part of that as the islanders try to put things on a more financially sustainable footing.
It became Scotland’s first community-owned, grid connected wind farm and the enthusiasm that greeted their arrival was in marked contrast to the rows that have beset other wind turbine developments elsewhere.
They were installed, second hand, having previously been at the Haverigg 1 wind farm in Cumbria and, as they needed cleaning after a lengthy transit, the Gigha residents showed tremendous support for the ‘Wash Our Windmills Day’ when they got them ready to stand tall.
The Scottish Government released its own figures this month, celebrating the fact that as of June 2012, more than 200MW of renewable generation capacity came from community and locally-owned energy projects – 40 per cent of the 500MW target for 2020 which was set out in its Routemap for Renewable Energy.
Many of them are in the Highlands and Islands region, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise was one of the backers, along with the National Lottery, of Gigha’s community buyout.
Elsewhere there is still a debate over the siting of turbines, particularly when they are collected together in large numbers.
But what projects like Gigha’s Dancing Ladies show is that with the backing of the community – and a tangible benefit to them from the project – wind farms do not have to be as black as they are painted.