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Energy / Viking Energy community benefit fund agreement an ‘important step forward’

Applications for the £400,000-a-year advanced grant scheme will open in early 2021

An impression of how part of the Viking Energy windfarm could look.

A LEGAL agreement is now in place between Shetland Community Benefit Fund Ltd, Viking Energy Wind Farm and developer SSE Renewables, paving the way for a substantial amount of funding to be made available for local projects.

A total of £400,000 a year will be available during the construction of the wind farm for community projects.

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Once the wind farm is operational around £2.2 million a year will be put into the community benefit fund.

The money is coming from the team behind the 103-turbine wind farm, which is expected to be operational in 2024.

The signing of a minute of agreement has been hailed as an “important step forward” in the process.

The £400,000-a-year advanced grant scheme will open to applications in early 2021.

It will only be open to projects supported by a community council.

There will be three tiers of funding – awards between £50 and £500, £500 and £5,000 and grants of over £5,000.

Money will also be used by Shetland Community Benefit Fund Ltd to develop business plans for future management once the controversial wind farm is in operation.

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Fund chair Chris Bunyan said: “The grant scheme is designed to give more responsibility and power to community councils and is open to charities, social enterprises, and other local groups.

“We hope they will show imagination in proposing projects to sustain and develop local communities. The money can be used to supplement funds from other sources.

“Local businesses can apply to help retain essential skills in a local community through training or apprenticeships.”

Viking Energy’s Aaron Priest said: “The signing of the minute of agreement is the result of the hard work by SCBF [Shetland Community Benefit Fund].

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“We are looking forward to the Viking Community Fund supporting important community projects across Shetland.

“This is the first stage in a community benefit package supported by Viking and SSE Renewables which is anticipated to be worth around £72 million over the lifetime of the wind farm.”

The fund has already given an advance payment of £200,000 to the MRI scanner appeal.

Shetland Community Benefit Fund was formed about 10 years ago by the islands’ community councils as an independent co-operative regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Each of the 18 community councils in Shetland can nominate someone as a director on the fund.

When the main fund starts after the wind farm begins operation, 10 per cent of the annual income will be available to all 18 community councils, with a mechanism to prioritise areas which host the turbines, using a similar share basis to the advanced scheme.

The majority of the funding will be available to “help sustain and develop Shetland’s communities through grants, loans or investments”, the fund said.

Shetland Community Benefit Fund said it “takes no view on any renewable development but exists to negotiate and administer community benefit funds from commercial renewable energy projects in the islands”.

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