Where it all began
UCTC began in 2004 with a bold idea – nothing less than to develop a wind turbine which would be a community asset and generate revenue for good causes in the Parish. At the time it seemed like no more than a dream, this scale of project had not been undertaken on the UK mainland. A very few enterprising island communities had made similar efforts, buoyed up by parallel successes in buying back their land into community ownership.
Untold hours were put into making it possible by a few determined founder members. As they overcame the hurdles of producing a business plan, assessing possible environmental impact, output projections based on wind data, site acquisition, finance, planning permission and so on (many more topics than first imagined), they kept the community informed and involved.
They also overcame challenges and set-backs as they worked tirelessly to get the project funded and at the same time planned for how the project would be turned to the benefit of the community.
As UCTC began with an idea from within the community it was critical to check that a community owned turbine was supported and that there were plans in place to spend the potential income once the turbine was producing electricity.
The community joined in with enthusiasm, and a large majority welcomed the proposal. The original site chosen was changed after this consultation process to reduce possible nuisance. The slight reduction on the optimum output was considered a good trade-off as it kept local support high. Not everybody finds wind turbines an attractive addition to the countryside!
What was most encouraging was the enthusiasm for possible community gains that might be offered, and a portfolio of ideas was produced through running events like ‘Planning for Real’.
As the construction of the turbine was completed, charity rules meant that a separate charitable body had to be formed to handle the revenue for charitable purposes.
Getting good governance
The right structures produce the most benefit possible for the community so it was important to get the governance right. UCTC had to be community controlled and led and be eligible for charitable status. The Turbine Company needed to operate as a trading subsidiary with its operating profit forming the main income for UCTC.
Getting charitable status was a slower process than expected, but was finalised in early 2014. UCTC had to obtain charitable status from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and recognition as a charity from HM Revenue and Customs. This was easier said than done and meant complying with both Scots Law and the law of England and Wales. After much delay and effort both bodies were satisfied and UCTC could now plan for a secure financial future.