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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
Marie Sharp

East Lothian communities could share multi-million pound benefits from wind farms

Community funding provided by wind farm operators could be shared across East Lothian to make sure all areas benefit from a potential windfall for the county.

A report to East Lothian Council next week reveals discussions are taking place with the Association of East Lothian Community Councils and the wind energy developers over plans to develop a scheme which would create an East Lothian Community Benefits Fund.

The move would mean that rather than all the voluntary payments from firms being given to the local community living next to their operation, some will go into a general fund for the wider county to benefit from.

READ MORE: East Lothian charity fund to help the poor gave just £70 to two people last year

It comes as it is estimated one potential wind farm, which is currently going through the planning process could generate £42 million in community payments over its 40-year lifespan.

Newlands Hill Wind Energy Hub, near Gifford, is expected to initially provide around £561,000 community benefit annually.

The report to councillors says: "Because of large sums that could be generated for relatively small communities the Good Practice Guidance suggests that “There may be an opportunity to be more flexible in terms of widening the geographical area of benefit to reach a greater number of individuals and organisations that could support projects that are area-wide.

"Any decision to widen the area of benefit should form part of the discussions/consultation process with the community living within the boundary of the development area and the renewable energy business."

The Association of East Lothian Community Councils has drawn up proposals for the East Lothian fund.

And the report said renewable energy companies that attended a recent energy forum organised by East Lothian MSP Paul McLennan, were in agreement in principle of splitting community benefits between locally affected communities and an East Lothian-wide community benefits fund.

Mr McLennan, who has led a series of energy forum meetings since being elected last year said the fund, which would be the first of its kind, had support from all sides.

He said: "I have had talks with the community councils association and the renewable energy developers and all have indicated they are supportive of the fund."

The report to councillors says Scottish Government guidelines over voluntary contributions from offshore wind farm contributions need to be finalised to establish how much could come into the new fund.

While onshore wind farm contributions are easy to establish, offshore is more difficult as the turbines are many miles from where the generated energy comes onshore and often in more than one local authority area.

It points out several offshore sites are due to bring energy onshore at the former Cockenzie Power Station site in future years and the NNG wind farm, which is due to bring some power on land at Thorntonloch is due to be commissioned next year by EDF.

The report will ask councillors to agree to "mandate the Economic Development Spokesperson to call upon the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport to finalise guidance for the valuation and distribution of community benefits arising from offshore wind developments and seek the support of Paul McLennan MSP in this respect."


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