Horshader Community Development is a community-owned charitable trust established in May 2005 to plan and run a community wind farm for the benefit of people in South Shawbost, Dalbeag and Dalmore on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis.
Horshader Community Development was the first community group in the Western Isles to develop a renewable energy revenue-generating project in the form of a 900kW single wind energy converter. It was a long hard road for us, being the first to go down this route with all the hoops to go through and hurdles to get over; however, we got there in the end. We were ably assisted in our quest by Community Energy Scotland with grant funding, support and guidance. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Economic Development and Planning Departments also gave support, practical help and advice. By October 2012 we had the turbine in place with commissioning later that month; it has been generating since then and has performed way beyond our expectations.
The turbine is a 900kW Enercon E44, which has a built in Storm Control function allowing the turbine to continue generating in much higher winds than previous models. It is owned and operated by Horshader trading subsidiary Risort Power Generation Ltd. This company gifts all of its residual profit to Horshader Community Development, which is a registered charity.
Our priority at Horshader Community Development is to use revenues from the wind turbine to fund projects that improve quality of life, increase employment prospects, protect the environment, and encourage young people to stay in the area.
Ours is a small, close-knit community of 70 households and a little over 150 community members. The traditional activities of crofting, fishing, peat-cutting and weaving are still prominent in township life. This area is also a stronghold of Gaelic language and culture, with 68% of the population speaking Gaelic on a daily basis.
Left to right: traditional peat cutting (photo by Murdo MacLeod); Harris tweed on the loom; lambing time.
In a survey conducted by Horshader Community Development, family home was cited as the main reason for living in the Horshader area. This shows the unique structure of our community, where a strong sense of belonging arises from having roots and family and a 'home for life.' The survey also indicated that local people find the area a good place to live owing to its peace and quiet; lack of crime; natural beauty (each of the three townships boasts its own sandy beach backed by machair and loch-studded moorland); and access to the local school and its amenities.
Left to right: Shawbost Loch; Dalbeag (photo by Murdo MacLeod); Dalmore Beach.
However, the survey also indicated some of the challenges that our community faces: the cost of living is high; there is a lack of employment opportunities and support for new businesses; community transport is insufficient; and social and leisure activities are few and far between. Additionally, ours is an ageing population, with 54% of survey respondents 56-91 years of age.
We want to meet these challenges to ensure that our community remains a special place to live for generations to come. Every resident of the townships of South Shawbost, Dalbeag and Dalmore is eligible to become a Company member, to stand for election as a director, to attend meetings, and to get regular updates regarding projects that the community have requested. We want to empower local residents, to lend people a voice and to get them involved in decision-making processes, enabling, over the coming years, real improvements and developments for our community.
Left to right: cutting the cake at the official opening of the turbine; Carloway First Responders receiving funding; opening of the Horshader Community Growing Project.
In 2015, we purchased our new premises – Raebhat House and after refurbishing to convert the House from a restaurant and bar to offices, we moved in. We now have a large open plan office on the ground floor, one smaller office, a meeting room and a larger community meeting room for social occasions. On our first floor, we have 2 additional office spaces which are available for community groups or businesses to use. Additionally, we converted the lounge bar and restaurant into an area which would facilitate the development of a small shop and café.
We are grateful to the following funding agencies for their support: