Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tiree Renewable Energy AGM 2009 Chairman's report

I have been trying over the last few days to distil my thoughts about the sort of year we have had as members of TREL. It feels like we have spent much of our energy averting potential disasters and the fact that we have succeeded in doing so and that we still have a viable project at the end of such a challenging and stressful year is a minor miracle in itself. It is also down to the tenacity, strength of spirit and sheer bloody-minded determination of the members of this committee and the strong support of our lenders and lawyers.


We have had to deal with the international banking crisis and global economic meltdown and this has affected the project in a number of ways. The financial cost of the project has risen as a result of a rise in the price of materials and the weakness of sterling against the Euro and the US dollar. At the same time the constraints applied by the banks have tightened considerably and lenders are understandably much more nervous about how much they are prepared to lend and to whom. Given these constraints, the Co-op bank have been enormously supportive and the fact that they still believe in the turbine in the context of the banking crisis underlines the strength and viability of the project as a whole.


We have also had to deal with a lack of structure and technical guidance from the agencies with whom we have been dealing. This is in part due to their lack of knowledge about community projects of this type and scale and it is hoped that a more coherent framework can be developed as a result of our experiences and that this can be used to help future projects in other communities.


Much of the first half of the year was spent negotiating and finalising the huge number of legal documents generated by the lenders, the funders, Argyll Estates, the electrical company, the turbine supplier and the insurance companies. In all there were more than 60 documents that had to be agreed and checked and approved by our lawyers before they could be signed by TREL and the Trust.


Despite these problems we confirmed our grid connection offer in January and in March the Land Court signed off on the resumption of the land in Ruaig. The large pile of legal documents was signed over the end of March and the start of April. This effectively kick-started the process of buying and erecting the turbine and set in motion the drawing down of funds from BIG and the loan from the Co-op bank.


The project as it now stands will cost £1.93M with £1.22M coming from the Co-op bank and £712K from BIG. With this money we intend to erect a 900kW Enercon E44 wind turbine in Ruaig. Delivery is scheduled for October this year with initial site works due to start in early July.


As I have said many times before, the turbine project has been a long, hard slog with many thousands of voluntary hours put in by the members of the TREL board and particular mention has to go to Ann Kirby, Ian Tainsh and Steve Thomson whose tireless energy and steely determination have carried this project forward from the outset. I would also like to mention Mark Ewing and Douglas Collingham of the law firm T C Young for their dedication and expertise in steering us through the legal quagmire and the team at the Co-op bank who have bent over backwards to make this happen.


I hope that by next years AGM the turbine we have talked about for so long will finally be turning and earning some money for Tiree.


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