Representatives from companies involved in the development of renewables across the globe joined voluntary board members and a range of consultants who work with community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust to discuss progress on the Trust’s projects to date and how the wind, wave and tidal potential of the Outer Hebrides could be harnessed in the future.
Dozens of people attended the Trust’s annual ‘Away Day’ at Lews Castle in Stornoway on Wednesday, September 19, 2018, and were given an update on a number of the Trust’s key projects, funded with the profits from its Beinn Ghrideag wind farm.
These included the Croft Woodlands project, where trees are being planted from the Butt to Barra; the LED Community Energy scheme, which aims to alleviate fuel poverty in the Point and Sandwick area while also reducing its carbon footprint; and the raft of community projects that are being supported by consultants Alasdair Nicholson and Tony Robson, who are funded by Point and Sandwick Trust as an outreach team to help community groups make funding applications and help them address questions of engineering.
“The Away Day is an annual event which is a review of the past year’s activity and a look forward to the AGM and the next year’s activity,” said Donald John MacSween, Point and Sandwick Trust General Manager. “We hold it because we want our directors to be fully aware on progress with all the projects and progress with our business, which is Point and Sandwick Power but also to have a look at future trends in energy and ways of developing and expanding community energy in the Western Isles.”
The Away Day also heard from Point and Sandwick Trust’s public relations and marketing consultants and was given a financial overview of the organization by its accountants.
Two representatives from global business Engie, the specialists in the transport and storage of gas with a presence in more than 70 countries, were at the event and gave a presentation on the future energy market and what is expected to happen to prices.
Engie were present because the company is one of Point and Sandwick Trust’s partners in the ambitious Hydrogen Ferry development project, which also involves a number of others including CMAL, who own the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries, and the Ferguson Marine shipyard.
Scottish Government funded a feasibility study into the Hydrogen Ferry project and the Away Day heard that this was one of Point and Sandwick Trust’s biggest news stories of the year, attracting coverage right across the world and in all sectors of the media.
Point and Sandwick Trust has built strong connections to the global businesses it is working with on the project to hopefully develop the world’s first Hydrogen-powered vessel for open sea crossings – and that was apparent not just from the fact that Engie representatives joined the Away Day, but also because one of them signed up as a ‘Friend of Point and Sandwick Trust’.
“The response and feedback from directors and all those who attended was extremely positive and enthusiastic – a recognition of the good work being done with the profits of the wind farm – and there was a good discussion on how to maximize community benefit from renewable energy sources in the future,” added MacSween “Everybody who was there was committed to the business and committed to the Trust’s aims and objectives and wanted to do something positive to help resolve the many economic issues facing the Western Isles.”
In the second half of the day, the focus moved on to future ideas and possibilities.
Green energy entrepreneur Ian Irvine – who co-founded technical consultancy Sgurr Energy, which has since been sold to Wood Group – gave a fascinating talk on how the Outer Hebrides could harness its renewable energy potential in terms of wind, wave and tidal in the future, to address its problems of fuel poverty and huge expenditure on oil for heating and travel costs.
Ian was joined at the Away Day by his Sgurr Energy co-founder, Steve McDonald, who has been involved with Point and Sandwick Trust since its early days of trying to build a wind farm.
That wind farm is the three-turbine scheme at Beinn Ghrideag outside Stornoway – the largest community-owned wind farm in the UK with an output of 9 MW and a multi-award-winner.
The business of the day was followed by a dinner and then a board meeting.