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Wind Powered Economy: Four Highland wind farms expected to generate £485M for the UK

23 Apr 2021

A report by leading renewable energy developer and operator SSE Renewables has found that four wind farms in Sutherland in the Highlands of Scotland are expected to contribute £485 million to the UK economy, throughout their development, construction and operational life.

£327 million of that money is expected to be contributed to the Scottish economy by the Strathy North, Achany, Gordonbush and Gordonbush Extension wind farms, with the Scottish Highlands benefitting from £131 million during the lifetime of the four projects.

This analysis for the report entitled Delivering Investment, Supporting Jobs – Understanding the socio-economic value for SSE Renewables’ projects in Sutherland was provided by leading economic consultancy, BiGGAR Economics.

As well the economic contribution of the projects, the report shows the wider socio-economic benefits from the wind farms’ community benefit funds which will be provided over their operational lifetime.

Managing Director of SSE Renewables, Jim Smith said:

“With help from BiGGAR Economics, we have quantified some of our socio-economic impacts and can see the scale of the economic contribution from our onshore wind developments in Sutherland.

“Millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs have been supported and retained in the local, regional and national economies and – crucially – the benefits will continue throughout the projects’ operational lives.

“Through our direct actions and that of our supply chain, we create local jobs and make a positive contribution to Scottish and UK GDP. SSE Renewables is part of these Highland communities for the long-term and this report lays out our ongoing commitment to them – to share in the value we’ve created.”

The report showed that there will be £23.1m of direct  funding available to Sutherland communities over the wind farms’ lifetime with £6.9m already spent. So far, 591 projects in Sutherland boosting education, skills development, responsible tourism and helping to build sustainable communities have been supported since 2010.

One such project that has benefited and which is featured in the report is the new village hall in Armadale. The project received £326.5k from the Strathy North Community Benefit Fund which was vital to the new facility being built. The hall also helped boost the local labour market with the contractor (Norbloc) committing to taking on local people to support the build, including the employment of a local school leaver.

Armadale Village Hall Committee Member, Caroline Jones explained the value of the investment to the community:

“Crofting communities are scattered by nature and it can be hard to get to know your next-door neighbours when you’re two fields apart. The new hall is in the centre of our village and will be a place to gather, bringing the community closer together and fostering community spirit.” 

Other key points of the report include:

  • That for every £1 of community funds spent, supported community projects across Sutherland are expected to generate £6.16 in wider value. The projects included heritage and tourism initiatives, skills and employability schemes and care projects.
  • When the coronavirus pandemic hit and the first national lockdown was announced, 10% of annual funds (£52k in Sutherland) for grassroots community Covid-19 projects was released. This funding enabled communities like Bettyhill and Helmsdale to provide meals for the elderly and purchase PPE for volunteers and community members.

Read the April 2021 socio-economic report here.

Read the December 2020 BiGGAR Economics report, including the full methodology for the economic contribution calculation, here.