CONSTRUCTION has begun on a community wind farm project in North Uist after a fundraising target was surpassed.

The North Uist Development Company (NUDC) raised £100,000 more than required for its equity stake in the UistWind project – reaching£452,850 – to build two 900kw turbines at Criongrabhal, near Clachan-na-Luib.

With feed-in tariff support, the turbines – which are due to be operational by October this year – will provide a set price for the electricity which is produced.

Despite fears of not meeting the target in November, when the total sat at around £317,000, a final push saw fundraising pass £400,000 on Christmas Eve.

Commercial loans are covering most of the cost of the £3.5 million project but the community still needed to raise a minimum of £350,000 as its equity stake.

The project is being financed primarily by Triodos Bank UK, the ethical bank with specialist experience in financing community renewable energy projects, with a secondary loan from the Energy Investment Fund and a Scottish Government fund managed and delivered by the Scottish Investment Bank. More than 240 investors contributed to the community fundraiser – the vast majority by buying shares.

Mustapha Hocine, chair of NUDC, said: “I am delighted that we have reached this key stage in the development of the North Uist renewable project.

“With the support of all our investors and our lenders, Triodos Bank and the Energy Investment Fund, we can now enter the construction phase of this important community project with a high level of confidence.

“I echo the many thanks that have been stated elsewhere, but in particular want to pay tribute to the unwavering support of my fellow directors of NUDC, the North Uist community and the over 240 investors who have made this project possible.”

The 1.8MW renewables project will be owned by the community and aims to generate more than £105,000 per year – or £2.33m over the project’s projected lifespan of 22 years.

Profits from the shceme will be invested back into the North Uist community through NUDC’s charitable activities.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government has played a part in making this important community project at Criongrabhal happen, by providing £575,095 of funding from our EIF towards the capital cost of the project.

“The community has also benefitted from important support through our Community and Renewable Energy Scheme.

“As someone who believes that such investments can be transformative for communities, it is absolutely fantastic to see the local island communities, and indeed communities and investors across Scotland, come together to support the project and help them exceed their equity stake.”