A new landmark is taking shape on the island. The £2 million pound community project to build a large wind turbine has entered the final stages with arrival on island of 7 lorry loads of parts and two gigantic cranes, transported by Mar-Train heavy haulage based in Ireland and Scotland. A specially chartered sailing of Caledonian MacBrayne’s ferry, the MV Clansman, arrived at Scarinish pier at 10.45pm on Saturday 7th November and it took over 2 hours to unload all the lorries/ cranes and components.
By Thursday 12th the first two sections of the turbine, each measuring over 15 meters, had been erected by the team from Enercon/ Whytes Cranes with assistance from Mar Train employees. Ironically, strong winds then intervened and put a temporary halt to the construction work. This is not surprising, according to Tiree Community Development Trust chairperson, Tish MacKinnon: “Tiree is the windiest place in the UK, so we should expect some delays. It’s just a pity that it has to come now, when we want calm days to get the construction done. Last month when we had the Wave Classic windsurfing event it hardly blew at all!”
Tiree Trust set up a community enterprise, Tiree Renewable Energy Company Ltd (TREL) to work on the turbine project. Chairman of the TREL board, Bruce Kemp, is also not surprised by delays: “The project has taken over 4 years to get to this stage, during which we have faced every kind of obstacle, frustration, set back and disappointment. The reason it is still going ahead is that we have a team of incredibly hard-working volunteers on the board of TREL. Remarkably, the project is still almost on schedule. Construction should be completed by the end of November.
The next steps are the commissioning and connection to the grid which should take place in December and the community should finally start to earn money from the sale of electricity. The turbine is expected to operate for 25 years, during which time it should earn in the region of £3.5 million.
Liz Lapsley, the local project officer working for the Tiree Trust, sees this to be the whole point of the project; “Once we have paid off the bank loan we could be earning over £200,000 a year for the community. We will have a community chest in the form of a local grant scheme that can be used to invest in any social, cultural or economic good cause that the community wants to support.” Tish MacKinnon also said “We are so close to getting our turbine up and running. Some of the volunteers have been putting in 20 or 25 hours a week, week after week for 4 years. There is just the voltage control equipment to be commissioned and we are there. If we hit another delay we will miss the good winter wind, our bank loan will increase and we will have less money for the community. We just need everyone to do their part, and Tiree can start to harvest the wind and look to the future.