June 16: Buying your own windturbine
On Burray, one of the Orkney islands, we visited Schotland's first community owned windturbine. It is the beginning of a new trend. “We were tired of foreign investors” tells site manager Richard Gauld.
The turbine, a 900 kilowatt Vestas V52 has been in operation for five years and already it has paid for itself. It has an expected lifetime of twenty years. The 30 investors received over the last years a dividend of 10 percent of their investment, but that is dependent on the electricity price.
We meet with site manager Richard Gauld at the turbine on Burray. He is one of the five directors of Orkney Renewable Energy, a company that has been set up to enable the purchase of the windturbine, using local investments only.

The idea stems from a farmer and veterinarian who wanted to install his own windturbine. But small ones are hard to come by. It seemed at the time that about 1 megawatt was the minimum size. That increased costs a lot, to 880,000 euros to be precise. To cover that amount of money, a company was set up and people were asked to become shareholder. “We had the money within two weeks”, says Gauld. In all, 30 investors participated in the project, investing between 33 and 55 thousand euros.
The project earns money by selling electricity and carbon certificates. The electricity price depends on the oil price, which Gauld expects to continue to rise over the next years. Five years ago, the power price was 16 euros per megawatthour, it now stands at 92 euros/mwh.
Apart from that, the project sells carbon certificates called Renewable Origin Certificates or ROCs, the price of which is yearly determined by the British government. Currently the ROCs are at 38 euros/mwh.
All in all, the project last year earned 440 thousand euros, about half the project price. “The project has now paid for itself”, says Gauld. “And we have large deposits.”

With such success it is hardly surprising that more similar projects are under preparation. This year alone, Gauld's company Orkney Wind plans to install three more turbines on various Orkney islands with the same favourable wind conditions.
To make sure the windturbine keeps producing and earning money back for the investors, you need to make sure the machine is under a maintenance contract with either the manufacturer or a local party, Gauld recommends.
And to keep good relations with the other inhabitants, Gauld advises to maintain a minimal distance of 500 meters between the turbine and the closest neighbour. At that distance, the machine is practically inaudible.
What Gauld recommends as well is to support local charities. In this case, Ornkney Renewable Energy supports a bus service for senior citizens. Gauld: “You've got to think about people who cannot afford to invest. There should be something in it for them as well.”