Applecross is a remote community of some 225 people in beautiful Wester Ross. We are around 85 miles from the nearest town of any size, Inverness. This is the road into Applecross, the Bealach na Ba.
Last year we built a community hydro scheme, raising the finance to pay for it through a shares offer run by our community benefit society Apple Juice. Here's the film we made to support the offer. We raised £803,700 in less than six weeks, and commissioned our 90kw run of river scheme on 11th December 2015. Here it is under construction, during a visit from our primary school.
And young Noah looking inside the turbine before it was connected, with engineer Mick.
So we're not looking for money to build the scheme; it is up and running and fully financed. We have a problem though, and that is why we have applied to the M&S Energy Fund and are looking for your vote. Our hydro scheme generates 90kw when there is enough water in the burn. It rains here a lot and we have steep hills, so it is able to generate a lot of energy a high proportion of the time. Here's our intake after a few days rain.
Our problem is that, although we accepted an offer of a 90kw grid connection in 2012 and paid for it in full, it turned out that in fact only a 50kw connection was available. The scheme was barely viable at 50kw, so we went ahead and built it as originally planned and are now looking to use the energy we can't export to provide affordable green heat to households and businesses nearby the scheme.
This is the area near the turbine house, seen from the sea. We'll run a buried wire down to the busy Applecross Inn, on Shore Street.
We will also run buried wires from the turbine house to an affordable housing scheme across the road. There are eight houses here which belong to Albyn Housing Association. Albyn is keen for its tenants to have access to affordable heat and has supported the project by monitoring energy use in the houses. This is the housing.
Energy costs are very high in a remote community like ours. There is no access to mains gas, so we are reliant on oil and coal, which cost more because of the transport costs, and electricity, which costs 2 pence more per unit thanks to a surcharge in the Highlands and Islands.
So not only will our private grid allow the hydro scheme to earn a higher income per unit than if we were able to sell it to the grid, but it will provide locals with access to more affordable green energy.
Profit from the sales of energy locally will go to Applecross Community Company, to add to the income already earned from the scheme and will be invested in a range of projects identified by on-going community consultation. This will include energy efficiency measures, care of the elderly, investment in our community broadband scheme and provision of grants to help locals to set up or expand businesses.
As well as the cost of the buried wires and connections to houses and businesses, the local grid will include a management system and smart metering.
Please support Applecross Energy with your vote and help us make the very most of our hydro scheme which took us eight years to develop from feasibility to commissioning. The more we earn from it, the more our community can thrive and we can feel positive about the rain!