homenews and insights wind farms contribute gbp485 million to economy and support communities

Wind farms contribute £485 million to economy and support communities

Gary Stalker
By Gary Stalker
26 May 2021

National Account Manager


An investment in renewable energy is also an investment in local communities, our national account manager Gary Stalker discovers.

Recently, it’s been reported that four wind farms in Sutherland in the Highlands of Scotland are expected to contribute an impressive £485 million to the UK economy, throughout their development, construction and operational life. That’s the findings of a report published on 23 April 2021 by SSE Renewables.

It’s great to see these wind farms, which are among the sites that generate 100% renewable electricity for our business customers, contributing to local communities and the economy. I know that supporting jobs and growth here in the UK is important to many of our customers.

£327 million is expected to be contributed to the Scottish economy, with the Scottish Highlands benefitting from £131 million during the lifetime of the four projects. Areas close to SSE wind farms such as Gordonbush, Strathy North and Achany are examples of where this money will be used to benefit local communities.

One example that the report talks about is the community in Armadale, who’ve rebuilt their run-down village hall thanks to a £326,500 grant from the Strathy North Community Benefit Fund, which enabled them to access additional funding. Their new hall is currently being used as a Covid-19 vaccination centre, and long term will host clubs, dances and wedding receptions – a lasting benefit for locals.

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.

Caroline Jones
Armadale Village Hall Committee Member

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.

SSE Business Energy and SSE Renewables, a leading renewable energy developer and operator, are both part of the SSE Group. The green electricity that we provide our customers is straight from our UK wind farms. As a group we’re building infrastructure for a low-carbon future, and investing in communities to ensure a just transition to net zero emissions.

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.

As well as 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. It’s good to see some of the socio-economic impacts from our renewable development quantified.

HelmsdaleMensShed_WP-555x416 (1).jpg

And of course the funds make a huge difference at a personal level, by supporting projects like the Men’s Shed in Helmsdale, near Gordonbush. This safe, friendly and inclusive venue allows local residents with health needs or caring responsibilities to join in on projects, share skills and learn. Alongside the physical and practical benefits, meeting up at the shed enhances members’ emotional wellbeing.

So far, 591 projects in Sutherland boosting education, skills, responsible tourism and helping to build sustainable communities have been supported since 2010. There will be £23.1 million of direct funding available to Sutherland communities over the wind farms’ lifetime with £6.9 million already spent. It’s an astounding return that for every £1 of community funds spent, supported community projects across Sutherland are expected to generate £6.16 in wider value.

As well as investment to sustain local communities, SSE has made emergency funds available. Over the past year, the coronavirus pandemic has affected all our lives in some way. When the first national lockdown was announced, SSE released 10% of annual funds (£52,000 in Sutherland) for grassroots community Covid-19 projects. This funding enabled communities like Bettyhill and Helmsdale to provide meals for the elderly and purchase PPE for volunteers and community members.

I’m proud to work for a company that quickly offered valuable help in a crisis. As we look towards a sustainable future, SSE Renewables is part of these Highland communities for the long-term and this report lays out SSE’s ongoing commitment to them – to share in the value we’ve created.

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. You can read the April 2021 socio-economic report here, and the December 2020 BiGGAR Economics report, including the full methodology for the economic contribution calculation, here.

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Distributed Energy Infrastructure | 12 Apr 2021

SSE Enterprise to provide site-wide electricity network to ‘the largest regeneration project Coventry has seen in a generation'

We have been contracted to design and deliver the site-wide electricity network at Friargate, designed by world-renowned architects, which is an ambitious £700m new business destination bringing prime new multi-functional working space, hotels, homes, shops, restaurants and public space next to Coventry railway station and a five minute walk from the city centre.

The development, once complete, will span 3,200,000m square foot including 400 new homes, 14 new office buildings, 215k sq ft of shops, bars and restaurants and creating 15,000 new jobs. With the nearby train station seeing 17k daily passengers, quick trains to the capital, a growing arts, social and leisure scene, Friargate will provide a crucial pillar for the city’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021. It has been called “the largest regeneration project Coventry has seen in a generation.”

On-site, over the coming years, we will deliver an embedded electricity distribution network comprising high voltage ring main, distribution substations and associated low voltage connections to commercial and residential buildings. This will require meticulous planning and coordination with key stakeholders to minimise disruption to the highway and pedestrian network.

The network will then be adopted by SSE’s IDNO, Forbury Assets Limited.

“Friargate is a significant win for our business and we are proud to be playing a part in the regeneration of a great city like Coventry,” explains Michael Robertson, Sector Director of Electricity and Gas. “Whilst initially focused on providing the electricity network to the development, we hope to use this as a stepping stone to introduce new value and energy solutions in line with our strategy of producing net zero networks.”

A spokesperson for the project Joint Venture said, “Friargate is pleased to have signed an infrastructure delivery agreement with SSE to provide electrical power to the project; the new arrangement secures power for the next and future phases of development complimenting the infrastructure deal signed with Coventry District Energy in 2018 to connect the master plan to the district heating scheme.

Friargate is now well placed to deliver new low energy buildings to meet market demand and we hope to announce a firm timetable for delivery of the next office within a few months. SSE has a very good reputation in the energy markets and we look forward to working with the team.”

  • 3.2m sq ft - size of development when finished
  • 400 - new homes
  • 15k - jobs being created
Read moreSSE Enterprise to provide site-wide electricity network to ‘the largest regeneration project Coventry has seen in a generation'
Coal mine
Distributed Energy Infrastructure | 11 Aug 2020

Strathclyde researchers win early stage funding to develop geothermal energy plans for disused, flooded coal mines

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde have won early stage funding to develop plans to tap into the geothermal energy contained within disused, flooded coal mines in Scotland.

The HotScot project is one of 17 shortlisted submissions across the UK chosen by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund to develop a full-stage bid that could lead to significant economic growth.

The consortium behind the project will submit their bid to UKRI in late 2020, with four to eight of the strongest bids set to receive between £10m and £50m each to carry out their proposals.

If successful, the HotScot consortium will develop at least three new mine-water geothermal heating/cooling/thermal energy storage sites in the Central Belt.

The consortium will deliver research and development to de-risk the technologies and support Scottish industry to build such sites across the UK and globally.

The £21 million investment in these sites, in tandem with £16 million research and innovation activities, will demonstrate the commercial potential to private sector investors of low-cost, low emissions heating, cooling and heat storage for communities and businesses.

Development of mine-water geothermal across Scotland could deliver economic growth equivalent to £303 million and around 9,800 jobs.

The consortium is being led by Professor Zoe Shipton, from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and includes Glasgow, Heriot-Watt and Stirling universities, British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, Community Energy Scotland, ENGIE, Envirocentre, Ramboll, Scottish Enterprise, SSE Enterprise, Synaptec, Synergie Environ, and TownRock Energy.

Heat trapped in 600 km3 of disused mine-workings in the Central Belt of Scotland could meet up to 8% of Scotland’s domestic heating demand.

Professor Shipton said: “Scotland has an ambitious target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, with a 75% reduction by 2030.

“Heat trapped in flooded coal mines represents a vast untapped low-carbon energy resource. The UK’s former coal mines are a £3 billion liability, but HotScot can demonstrate how these old mines could become an economic asset. “Flooded coal mines contain water with little to no seasonal variation in temperature making them an ideal heat source for district heating networks to support low-carbon, affordable heating, cooling and heat storage for local communities and businesses.”

The main barriers to exploiting this energy is proving the resources and costs to investors. The HotScot consortium will develop at least three active geothermal sites and retrofit two more at different scales and with varying end-users.

All of the data the team generate will be publicly available through a portal run by the British Geological Survey as part of the UK Geoenergy Observatories project.

The project has three core themes: Minimising technical, geological, environmental, societal risks; maximising socio-economic benefits; and engaging communities in their energy future.

Researchers will also engage with universities and colleges to develop graduate apprenticeships and new training programmes alongside industrial and local authority partners to fill the skills shortage in the sector.

Creative industry partners, Handiwork Games, Screen Scotland and Timeslip media will produce engaging materials for school children and adults across multiple media platforms.

Professor Shipton said: “The combination of core research, learning-by-doing and the resulting targeted research will not only de-risk the individual projects but address global barriers to minewater geothermal heating/cooling/thermal energy storage as a technology: creating employment within the Central Belt of Scotland, long-term export opportunities for Scottish skills and products, and sustainable economic growth beyond the project lifespan.”

Read moreStrathclyde researchers win early stage funding to develop geothermal energy plans for disused, flooded coal mines