Community groups are turning to wind farm cash to help vulnerable locals during the coronavirus pandemic.
The money – part of a £20 million a year community benefit pot paid by wind farm developers to communities in Scotland every year – is usually spent on local projects.
But a growing number of groups are now repurposing the funding to support those in hardship because of the ongoing health emergency.
Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA) co-owns a 7.5MW wind farm at Hoprigshiels near Cockburnspath with Community Energy Scotland. It provides around £40,000 a year in community funding and is now working with a newly-established volunteer action group to provide emergency grants to local families in hardship.
Karen Nelson, Treasurer of Cockburnspath and Cove Community Council, stressed that the focus must be on the local community at this time.
She explained: “We have Community funding available, mainly from local wind farm grants, which local organisations can apply for, through the Community Council. However, we aim to make the application process as simple and as flexible as possible to help the community during the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“A volunteer group is already up and running. Government ‘self Isolation’ postcards have been distributed with key contact details. Wind farm grants will be used to provide funding for whatever the group needs both immediately and over the coming weeks.
“Our local shop, which included the Post Office, closed at the end of February and supermarket deliveries are stretched. Newspaper distribution, again by volunteers, was in place until yesterday when the Pease Bay caravan site shop, who helped co-ordinate the order, also closed until further notice. Therefore our local minister is organising food parcels for anyone in need as shopping is now a real challenge for many in the area.
“Before the Coronavirus hit, the community had already set up an action group with the aim of setting up a community shop. This group and contact lists are now being utilised to ensure our whole community have what they need as they stay at home.”
BHA Chief Executive Helen Forsyth said: “The community at Cockburnspath are amazing and we are humbled by the commitment and determination they are showing in this crisis. Our only role is to give our blessing to their choices about how they spend the money from the wind farm but we are very supportive and hope it brings relief and comfort to those in the area in need.”
Community Energy Scotland Development Manager Jamie Adam added: “We have been humbled by the reaction of local communities to the coronavirus emergency, and are delighted to be able to help, if only in a small way.
“The wind farm we co-own provides around £40,000 a year in community funding, which has so far been used to support projects like a new grass cutting machine for local playing fields, and development work for a new community hall in Oldhamstocks.
“We have now been contacted by a new volunteer action group who want to divert some of the money to provide emergency grants to local families who might be experiencing hardship or redundancy. This is a great opportunity for renewable energy projects to provide direct action on a pressing local issue, and we’d love to see more wind farm owners following suit.”