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Insider UK
Peter A Walker

Virgin Money backs Ayrshire wind farm with £14 million funding

Virgin Money has completed a £14m funding package to support Ripple Energy in the development of a new 18.8MW wind farm in Ayrshire, that will be part-owned by both individuals and small businesses via a co-operative.

The deal will facilitate the construction and operation of eight turbines at the Kirk Hill Wind Farm near Girvan, which should be capable of generating enough electricity to power approximately 20,000 homes and save over 31,760 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, when fully commissioned in the first quarter of 2024.

In line with Virgin Money’s goal to at least halve carbon emissions across everything it finances by 2030, this is another major step towards achieving 10% of the business loan book being comprised of 'sustainability changemakers' by 2027.

Ripple Energy's co-operative business model aims to let both households and businesses own their own share of a large-scale wind farm through a co-operative, as well as having its low cost green energy supplied to their homes via the grid.

The new wind farm will be part owned by more than 5,600 households, both locally and throughout Great Britain, together with 19 businesses and commercial property investor Bruntwood, after it purchased a 42.2% share.

The financial package Virgin Money has agreed takes the bank’s total investment in energy and environment financing close to £250m.

“We are accelerating our drive to fast-track more renewable projects to contribute to the carbon reduction journey as quickly as possible,” said Adam Heslop, senior director for renewable energy at Virgin Money. “It’s particularly pleasing to facilitate this project alongside Ripple Energy’s team who have an excellent track record of developing renewable energy projects successfully and effectively.”

Ripple's founder and chief executive Sarah Merrick stated: “Alongside our members, this support is helping to drive a momentous shift towards consumer ownership in the energy market.

“We want these pioneering projects to become a blueprint for consumer-owned wind farms and solar parks around the world, creating a wave of green energy ownership that enables people to make a real climate impact, as well as stabilising their energy bills.”

Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Bruntwood, added: “We’re committed to a sustainable and fair future, and we were proud to be the very first commercial property business in the UK to invest in a co-operative owned Wind Farm.

“It’s fantastic to see Virgin Money back the development at Kirk Hill wind farm, which is a landmark project for green energy in the UK.”

Robin Winstanley, sustainability and external affairs manager at Banks Renewables (Ian Georgeson)

Separately, an application for a new wind farm by Banks Renewables has been submitted to South Lanarkshire Council for review.

Planning officials are expected to consider proposals to develop the 37-turbine Bodinglee Wind Farm and battery storage development near Douglas.

If approved, Bodinglee could provide more than 200,000 households with green electricity annually and could displace the equivalent of around 70,000 petrol cars’ annual CO2 emissions from the UK’s electricity grid.

Over the 40-year lifespan of the proposed wind farm, Banks Renewables forecast a blended community benefits package of an estimated £53m would help local people save an estimated £2.5m to £4.5m each year on their energy bills.

Robin Winstanley, sustainability and external affairs manager at Banks Renewables, said: “We believe we have presented a very strong case for approving this scheme, which would deliver significant environmental, social and economic benefits to local communities in South Lanarkshire that would help tackle climate change and drive down energy bills for local households.

“The blended benefits package which would result from Bodinglee Wind Farm is innovative in its approach, looking beyond the traditional model of issuing grants from a central pot, seeking to reshape how a just energy transition could directly benefit local households and the wider community.”

The creation of a community-owned organisation - the Clydesdale Community Energy Transition Company (CCETco) - would help by imporving the thermal efficiency of homes in the area and replacing fossil-fuelled heating systems.

In addition to the creation of CCETco, Banks Renewables has offered to gift a 1% stake in the wind farm to the community - and a further 9% will be available to purchase at market rate if desired - which would boost the community funding element above the £53m figure.

Winstanley added: “Since we commenced development of the project in 2021 we have been meeting with and listening to local communities, businesses, and a wide variety of people locally, and we hope we have exceeded their expectation of what Bodinglee Wind Farm can contribute to South Lanarkshire and we hope that people locally will support our application to build what would be a nationally significant green energy development on the UK and Scotland’s journey to net zero.”

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