Related renewable energy scheme: Corrimony Wind Farm, Glenurquhart
Partnered with local farmers (the Girvan family)
CARES Funding: CARES Enablement Grants £8,588, and £3,670.
Date operational: March 2013
Soirbheas is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. It aims to strengthen and support the communities of Glenurquhart and Strathglass through investment in local renewable energy schemes. It was formed to invest in the Corrimony Wind Farm, through ownership of a virtual wind turbine. A virtual turbine is where a community have bought into a larger commercial project but do not own a specific physical turbine at the site.
In addition to income received from Corrimony Wind Farm, Soirbheas receives community benefit payments from other renewable energy projects in the area including SSE Bhlaraidh Wind Farm and Green Highland Renewable micro hydro in Glenurquhart.
Monies are reinvested in the community via the charity’s grant programmes as well as through key projects delivered in partnership with other organisations and local community groups. Funds are used to support local initiatives that aim to protect the environment, provide training and employment opportunities, or create more resilient communities.
Outcomes and achievements
Since 2013, Soirbheas has developed four grant programmes to support local development: Tier 1 (up to £1,000) and Tier 2 (up to £10,000) were introduced in 2014. Tier 3 (up to capital £30,000), which launched in 2018, is a two-stage grant process and supports projects to identify and secure match funding in order to fully develop their project. Projects supported include the purchase of community assets and building and renovation projects.
Grant funding has supported several renewable and energy saving initiatives. These include various installations such as a heat pump to improve energy efficiency at the local care centre, a PV solar array at Cannich Hall, a renewable system at the sustainable education centre, and electric tracks for transporting children to an outdoor nursery. Other projects supported have been improvements to social housing and village halls, and heritage, cultural and sports projects.
One of Soirbheas’ major investments has been in an Apprenticeship Grant Programme for 16 to 24-year olds, which launched in 2018. It supports businesses to employ a young person to undertake a modern apprenticeship by part funding salary costs for up to three years. Four young people have been supported so far to work with Tomich Holidays, Glenurquhart Care Centre and Alba Joinery.
Soirbheas Community Development staff provide advice and guidance to local groups on how to apply for matched funding from other sources to maximise the overall benefit to the community. The charity also funds a befriending service and is also involved in a project that co-ordinates respite holidays for cared-for people or carers.
Other renewable energy opportunities
Soirbheas received a CARES Enablement Grant to investigate shared ownership opportunities and to establish community benefit agreements with developers.
Soirbheas was successful in its application to be a pilot area for the Community Benefits of Civic Energy (COBEN) project. This looks to develop a community-led Local Energy Plan for Drumnadrochit using a “whole system” approach to consider the area’s energy generation, energy efficiency, heat, transport, storage and future usage needs.
Soirbheas is currently developing a low carbon and active travel transport Hub for the area, in partnership with Glen Urquhart Rural Community Association. This £1 million project will be based in the former Tourist Information Centre in Drumnadrochit. The initiative, known as the Loch Ness Hub, and its community share offer, will be launched in April 2020.
A spokesperson for Soirbheas said: “As well as funding, we also invest a lot of time and effort into community development. This approach has built strong community partnerships and we feel this is a more sustainable approach to developing resilient communities, rather than just acting as a funder. This approach has also helped to improve community capacity and allow significant transformational projects to be developed.”