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Energy / Wind farm community benefit fund now open for applications

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

THE FIRST community benefit money from the Viking Energy wind farm fund is now available following a number of delays in getting the scheme up and running.

Shetland Community Benefit Fund (SCBF) chair Chris Bunyan said the organisation that administers community cash from the Viking Energy wind farm had already received 10 funding applications plus several expressions of interest.

During its first year of operation, £340,000 will be made available for projects across the islands but there will be a focus on the communities most severely impacted by the construction of the 103-turbine wind farm.

The four community councils with Viking turbines in its areas – Delting, Tingwall, Whiteness and Weisdale, Nesting and Lunnasting and Sandsting and Aithsting – will have £50,000 available for projects while the other 14 community councils will have £10,000 each.

The community benefit payments from Viking owner SSE Renewables will increase to £400,000 a year while the wind farm is being built, and rise to £2.2 million annually once operational.

Bunyan said he hoped islanders would find “imaginative ways of using the grant money to support local communities”.

Applications will have to be submitted to SBCF, where they will go through a verification process before being handed over to the relevant community councils to make a decision whether a proposed project should be supported.

Some community councils have privately expressed concern with regards to the additional workload and responsibility, but Shetland Islands Council’s community council liaison officer Michael Duncan said the process should be straightforward.

“Community councils have been administering community grants for many years so have plenty of experience in this area,” he said.

“For the advanced grant scheme, Shetland Community Benefit Fund will hold the funds centrally and do the due diligence and eligibility checks on all applications received prior to sending them to the relative community council for a decision.”

Bunyan said the whole idea behind the fund was to make community groups’ money go further.

“The idea is to complement existing funding scheme, and certainly not to replace or supplement what is already there,” he said.

Bunyan added that SCBF would always encourage groups, individuals and businesses to first seek funding elsewhere before entering discussions with the community fund to see if finance could be topped up.

He stressed that the fund wanted to be as flexible as possible in supporting the local community, as well as being used to help open up funding from other sources. 

Businesses can apply to help retain essential skills in a local community through training or apprenticeships.

Any application must have the support of the local community council to be awarded a grant.

The developer behind the Viking Energy wind farm will pay out £5,000 for each megawatt (MW) of installed capacity a year. It will be able to generate up to 443MW.

Full details of the grant scheme are available online.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021