December 22nd, 2011

Critical Funding Hurdle for Soirbheas achieved

This week the Soirbheas board learnt that its application to Social Investment Scotland for £250k grant and £250k loan had been approved (subject to due diligence, satisfactory documentation etc as is normal for this sort of financing).  This is a great step forward and  provides the critical equity for Soirbheas to enable the community to buy its turbine.  The rest of the money is expected to come from Co-Op Bank and the credit approval is pending.  Thank you to all those involved so far in helping us reach this key milestone.

December 20th, 2011

Soirbheas meeting with drinks (all welcome) – Dec. 21st 7.30pm Balnain

The next Soirbheas Steering Committee Meeting is taking place on Wednesday 21st December at 7.30pm at Balnain Community Hall.  This is a critical meeting as we hope to have heard by then whether Soirbheas has secured the grant funding from Social Investment Scotland that we need to proceed with buying one of the wind turbines for the benefit of the community.  All members or prospective members welcome.

Please come along and join the board for a glass of wine as we would like to thank everyone who has supported us along the way this year to reach this point – helping us with increasing the charity membership and understanding what the community wants, advice and suggestions, assistance with the website, ideas for the newsletter … It has all been very much appreciated.

November 27th, 2011

Soirbheas meet with Social Investment Scotland

On Wednesday 23rd November, Tanya Castell (Chair of Soirbheas Ltd) met with Katie Handy of Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to discuss our wind farm proposal.   Soirbheas have made it throught the first assessment process and now our application is being considered in more detail as to whether SIS would provide loan/grant funding.  Without this money, Soirbheas will not be able to purchase the turbine being offered by Corrimony Energy to the community so this is a critical phase and we all have our fingers and toes crossed for luck!

November 9th, 2011

Scotland’s Digital Future – Soirbheas attends GovCamp Scotland

Tanya Castell, Chair of Soirbheas, attended GovCamp Scotland on Monday 7th November.  The aim was to explore the vision of Scotland’s Digital Future and seek commitment to work in partnership to achieve Scotland’s full potential in this regard. There were 300 people attending the event from academia, private, public and third sectors as well as members of the general public and at the end a Digital Participation Charter was signed by various organisations attending the event.  DigitalParticipationCharterFinal

This links to one of Soirbheas’ key objectives which is to improve the internet connectivity for Strathglass and Glen Urquhart.

October 29th, 2011

Soirbheas attend Village SOS Conference

Tanya Castell, chair of Soirbheas Ltd, attended the Village SOS conference at Eden Court in Inverness on Friday 28th October organised by the Big Lottery.  Among the topics covered were sources of funding, potential community opportunities, approaches to community engagement and challenges with running community enterprises.

October 27th, 2011

Soirbheas share experiences at Community Energy Scotland training day

Soirbheas chair, Tanya Castell attended Wednesday’s (26th October) Community Energy Scotland (CES) training day.  This started with a presentation on  CES’s Powerdown initative and a briefing from the Big Lottery Fund on their position in relation to investing in renewables related projects.  Tanya then attended sessions on joint ventures, debt financing, reinvesting in the community and micro renewables.  As part of the joint ventures workshop, Tanya also gave a short talk on Soirbheas’ experience of working in partnership with a private company to develop a wind farm.

October 19th, 2011

Rural Scotland in Focus Debate – Soirbheas invited

Tanya Castell, chair of Soirbheas, attended a Rural Scotland in Focus Debate in Inverness organised by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) yesterday (October 18th).  The topic was “On- and off-shore renewables: who benefits?” and the half-day event was attended by a wide range of stakeholders.  One key area of focus was what more needs to be done to achieve greater community involvement and benefit from renewables projects. The briefing paper is on the SAC website Renewables Debate

October 19th, 2011

Soirbheas present at Rural Energy Networking Event

Andrew Castell gave a presentation on the 18th October at a Scottish Rural Network event at Carnoustie held in partnership with the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Community Energy Scotland.

October 15th, 2011

New Board Member

We are pleased to announce that Bruce Nelson who moved to Tomich a year ago has just joined the Soirbheas board.

September 27th, 2011

Soirbheas board focus on finance

Now a grid connection has been confirmed, the Soirbheas board has been working closely with Mike Girvan of Corrimony Energy to agree the best financing structure for the Corrimony wind farm. In early September, they all met with Coop Bank to gather the bank’s input on this.  A proposal has been drafted and Soirbheas is also seeking independent legal advice.

The Soirbheas board is also investigating potential grant funding to provide the equity finance with guidance and support being provided by Community Energy Scotland. Tanya Castell, who took over as chair in late July, is in discussion with potential funders and the Soirbheas business plan, incorporating all the work done to date on the project, is being presented to the next steering committee for review.

May 5th, 2011


Soirbhease is a local community charity which is working with the Girvan family at Corrimony to build and run a small wind farm of just 5 turbines.

The money expected to to be generated from Soirbheas share will be used to benefit the people of Glen Urquhart and Strathglass.

As the likelihood of this project takes a step closer now that planning permission has been granted, Soirbheas would like to ask you what you think, which sorts of projects we should invest in and how to allocate the money.

4 drop-in sessions are being arranged to hear your thoughts and answer any questions.

Tomich Hotel: 15th May 11.30am – 2pm
Cannich Hall: June 16th 7pm – 9pm
Balnain Village Hall: June 23rd followed by Soirbheas AGM – time to be arranged
Drumnadrochit: Venue and date to be arranged
We look forward to seeing you there!

April 19th, 2011

Minutes Steering Group February 2011

Steven had been asked by Anne to set out a 3 page document on how we might address the deficit in community responses and engage them in determining what the communities priorities for funding projects might be. One possibility is to add further income generation projects to provide inward investment and so boost revenue available to other community projects. Bill was very keen to see micro-hydro opportunities in the Glen harnessed in this way. We are aware of projects GULUP are planning (including micro-hydro), and Glen Urquhart Greenspace, but we need to know what the community’s priorities are.

There was some discussion about the acrimonious disputes that have occurred within some communities who are recipients of turbine revenue payments. CES strongly recommended having priorities for funding set out before the revenue stream begins in order to avoid such disputes. We have always recognised this danger and have planned to avoid disputes by having an Allocations Committee drawn from our Membership and/or Directors to consider applications for funding from the community and control this aspect. Steven acknowledged that our circumstances were slightly different as we will own and control the revenue stream. The communities that are having these disputes did not initially have the formal structure to administer the funds and so rival recipients are all vying for the money. Highland Council have expressed concern about this as it can be very divisive for communities. They are already making suggestions that they (or worse still Scottish Government) should take over the receipt of community payments from windfarm operators to ensure a fairer means of disbursement to the whole community.

Discussion moved on to planning and it was decided that we should run 4 or so community workshops to raise our profile and communicate where we are with this project. The main objective will be to obtain community views on what they want us to support. Whiteboards could be used to elicit people’s ideas and an attitude survey to specific outcomes carried out so that we can get some idea of the ranking or priority people attach to each of them. We could suggest that a designated sum or percentage of annual revenue income could be ‘ring fenced’ for small community projects to see if that was felt to be a good idea for example. Steve and Laura agreed to attend one each of these events.

Steven suggested we should take the opportunity to visit some more projects as there are always valuable lessons to be drawn from others experience. To this end he mentioned that there are funds available for the costs of such visits from Development Trust Association Scotland – max £1,000 – but we should go soon as funding ends in May. Westray was suggested as being worth a visit and Bill suggested Fintry as they are now looking at micro hydro for inward investment (although we would not need funding for the latter).

Steven mentioned the Investing for Community Benefit report now available on CES website – it includes 10 case studies of community groups that secured assets or revenue and then invested it in local development measures.- worth looking at. Laura reminded that the CES interactive coaching (telephone conferencing) had been successful and recommended getting involved with it – a useful forum for exchanging ideas, tips etc.

Steven indicated Social Investment Scotland may be useful to us for mezzanine funding. Anne is already aware of this and has been exploring it following the recent director’s meeting with Co-op who had also suggested it. As we understand it SIS will provide a tranche of funding alongside the Co-op’s – they accept the bank’s due diligence so no separate negotiation required. Not known what interest rate they are offering.

Current Situation

We have had no word from Mike so do not know if any progress has been made regarding grid connection and have heard nothing from Scholes yet regarding the Figures. We cannot do much more without the figures. Andrew mentioned that the grid connection should also be considered warily as he is aware of a similar situation where verbal assurances have been made and then later reneged on. Until we have it in confirmed in writing it can’t be counted on.

Although we have planning consent, no-one has studied it and Mike has made no comment on any Planning Requirements that may have been attached. We need to check into this. The Planning consent is available on the HRC web-site so can be freely viewed.

Current bank account balance is £1747.58 (before the recently drawn cheque comes off for latest accountant’s invoice)

Matters Arising and Any Other Business

Steven and Laura left the meeting and discussion ensued regarding the community workshops. Andrew & Tanya agreed to read up on what was done last time and come up with ideas for the white board content and circulate to us. Suggested venues for the meetings are Tomich (possibly the Hotel), Cannich (Bog Cotton?), Balnain Hall and Drumnadrochit (school?).

Tanya asked if there was anything more she could take on and suggested a meeting with Anne & Erik to explore this.

February 22nd, 2011

Minutes – 27th January 2010

Planning Permission – has now been obtained

Funding – There is a balance of £500 left in the funding from Investing in Ideas for which deadline for use has been extended to March. This has been allocated to accountancy costs and we are expecting an invoice for this from AJB Scholes shortly.

Big Lottery funding application has been deferred. At present we have insufficient community members to qualify and we only meet 1 of the 3 outcomes. Est. population for our area is 2500 so we would need at least 10% to join as members. Our Community Engagement has not been strong enough. Anne has met with Steven Watson of CES to discuss it further with him and he has indicated that Big Lottery attitudes have changed now. They are not so happy to fund capital costs of projects as they were in the past. There are also concerns about whether this type of project constitutes State Aid for a commercial project. As we will qualify for ROC payments, the lottery seems less inclined to help than they might previously have been. Lottery is now keener to help in deprived areas – and this is not a deprived area. They are not funding such large amounts now for Renewables projects as they have in the past. This all suggests the Big Lottery would be a lot of work both in the application and in subsequent monitoring and reporting on outcomes, with only a small prospect of success.

As the bank will fund a lot more than we had originally envisaged, Anne felt we should consider dropping the Lottery. This would also allow us more flexibility as it would no longer mean we have to own an asset – we could own a 20% share-holding in the wind-farm company instead (as we had envisaged in our original model). We would not then need to pay for the extra costs of separate metering. A shareholding would be less risk too as instead of all our revenue ‘eggs’ being in on turbine ‘basket’ we would spread the risk over all 5 turbines. It was generally felt by those present that if we could raise sufficient funding elsewhere, then we should not proceed further with a Big Lottery application.

Social Investment Scotland Fund – Anne met with Alastair Davis – £3 Million going into this fund on 1st April and they can offer funding for projects of– minimum £100,000 and max £1 Million. They work closely with Co-op Bank. Do not require us to own a separate turbine and will go with the Co-op’s view on viability. They have provided funding to Tiree and some other community wind turbine projects. We should also consider Leader which may help fund the Development aspect to £20,000 or so.

Membership – 4 new members have joined. Despite pressing people to join there are still many who have not filled out and returned forms and a there is still a general attitude that it will ‘not happen in my lifetime’. This is frustrating given that we have now crossed four of the big hurdles – Wind monitoring; Environmental Assessments and way-leave negotiation; Planning Consent and Funding. There is only the Grid Connection to resolve before work on the ground actually starts. We need to broadcast this good news widely and to have more people on board as members of the Community Company. It may be that Steven Watson can help us with this engagement, particularly with the Strathglass community which has not responded much at all. This might be achieved through meetings or work-shops with community members or groups. Tomich Barn might be a venue for this. We can also ask the local news web-site to help us and ask other community groups that will benefit from the revenue we generate to get word out to their members and ask them to join us.

January 10th, 2011

Minutes of meeting held 25th November 2010

Minutes of the Soirbheas Community Wind Energy Project

Funding – CES have just paid in the funding for the buy in to the Corrimony Energy Project. Big Lottery Growing Community Assets Fund application has been lodged and acknowledged by them. We should have a reply within 6 weeks as to whether we will qualify and can go on to stage 2.

Social Investment Scotland Fund – following the Government spending review £3 Million has been allocated to the fund this year.

Membership – 4 new members have joined. Membership application forms have been lodged with Bog Cotton Café in the hope we can attract more members from the Strathglass end. Erik has begun recruitment campaign to get more folk to join

Finance – Mike Girvan was presented with our cheque for the buy in.

Corrimony Energy Ltd Mike Girvan

1)Mike advised he had spoken with Gordon Mooney of Planning Dept who advised they have still not yet written up their formal response. Appears consent will be given so hopeful that we may hear by the end of December

2) Wayleave/lease negotiations now completed and cost will be around £28,000 (annually)

3) Grid Connection – no further forward. Last SSE estimate was around £1.2 Million but hopeful that it may be done for less in the end. It may be necessary to get folk to do some lobbying if this looks like becoming unduly protracted.

4)Mike has had further meetings/talks with Chris Rodgers of Co-op Bank and he would like to arrange a meeting with us to go over what will be required. As Lindsey will be away to New Zealand from January a meeting in December is needed.

5)Anne to ask Scholes to hold off preparation of accounts model as Co-op may have some input to this in particular as regards interest rates etc.

DATE OF NEXT MEETINGS: Thursday 27th January 2011, 24th February and 24th March 2011

January 10th, 2011

Planning Permission

Soirbheas heard at the end of December that the 5 proposed wind turbines on Corrimony Farm, (Soirbheas is proposing to erect one turbine,) had received planning permission.
For more information about the next steps involved come to the monthly meetings held at Balnain Village Hall, Glen Urquhart on January 27th at 7.30pm.