Langholm Initiative: the potential for renewable energy technology near Langholm
Project name: Langholm Initiative: the potential for renewable energy technology near Langholm
Technology: Options appraisal
Location: Borders Estate near Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway
CARES funding: CARES enablement grant, £12,000.
Date installed/ operational: February 2020
Langholm Initiative is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. Its projects are dedicated to improving the communities of Eskdale including Langholm, Eskdalemuir and Canonbie.
Langholm Initiative is considering purchasing land as part of a community buy-out of Borders Estate, currently owned by Buccleuch Estates. It aims to use the land to encourage the profile of sustainable tourism by developing green infrastructure such as an eco-campsite and a nature reserve visiting centre. At the same time, it aims to conserve local biodiversity and provide economic benefits to the local community.
Langholm Initiative is conducting an overall feasibility study for the community land buy-out, funded by the Scottish Land Fund (SLF). The community buy-out presents Langholm Initiative with the opportunity to start sustainable tourism and ecological restoration projects. The installation of renewable energy generation can provide economic benefits to the community by reducing energy costs and providing revenue to drive local projects, while at the same time reducing the carbon footprint of these projects. Such developments may also create revenue for sustainable tourism marketing strategies which can boost the area’s tourism profile.
Project aims and objectives
In October 2019, Langholm Initiative applied to CARES for an enablement grant to pay for a renewables option appraisal to identify local energy project options. The report would identify options that would be both technically and economically viable and also provide a lasting benefit to the community. Green Cat Renewables was commissioned to conduct the analysis and options appraisal.
The first phase of the report aimed to identify areas where renewable energy projects could be viable. The next phase would then confirm the technical and financial feasibility of these projects identified including baseline studies of nominated locations. The third and final phase aimed to establish a business case for the option(s) identified and integrate these into the overall development plan.
Outcomes and achievements
The first two phases of the feasibility study identified the project’s main constraints and risks and appraised the site for suitable technology options. Through this process Green Cat Renewables was able to rule out hydro-electric energy, roof-mounted solar energy, biomass systems, and both air-source and ground-source heat pumps as possible options.
Phase three reported the key environmental and technical considerations for a renewable energy development on the estate. It reported on the viability of both a wind energy development and a ground mounted solar energy option at three sites within the community land buy-out area. An indicative site design was provided for each possible site based on site-specific constraints, planning policy constraints and energy yield optimisation. A financial analysis was also carried out, demonstrating the estimated costs and generated income over each project’s lifetime. The environmental and social benefits of each design were accounted for in its final conclusions and recommendations.
The reported identified a ground-mounted solar farm as a low-risk investment with a good chance of achieving consent on the estate. Two sites were identified as having the capacity to develop financially viable schemes. A further suitable site for installing an 800kW capacity wind turbine was also identified.
The final report stated that while a single wind turbine would produce the greatest revenue, solar technology should have the lowest risk of refusal at the planning application stage. Both of the solar sites identified are also flexible enough to construct scaled down schemes, if this is more suitable for Langholm Initiatives’ aspirations. It should also be possible to build all the potential projects under varying timescales, should this appeal. If wind energy is considered, it recommended that a meteorological mast is installed to validate the wind resource.
In addition, the report recommends that Langholm Initiative approaches Dumfries and Galloway Council for a pre-application consultation in order to further inform their choice of technology. It recommends the company requests a scoping opinion to ascertain the scope of work required and minimise project costs. It also advises that the company creates a robust public engagement strategy for the project’s development and planning stages.
Following the completion of the options appraisal study, Langholm Initiative has begun discussions with Local Energy Scotland to explore further funding options to support progressing its project.
Langholm Initiative identified the following as important lessons learned:
- Partnership working and coordination with multiple consultants was required to build the wider feasibility study for the Scottish Land Fund application.
- Managing tight timelines is important – for example, to meet Scottish Land Fund application deadlines.
- Members learned about the different organisations that offer energy efficiency and renewable energy support to communities.
- Members gained knowledge of the steps required to progress the options appraisal’s recommendations – funding options, for example.