Name: Chris Walker.

Age: 57.

What is your business called?

Muirhall Energy.

Where is it based?

Auchengray in Lanarkshire.

What does it produce, what services does it provide?

We develop and manage onshore wind projects, and sell renewable power, both into the wholesale market and by providing clean power directly to businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact. We are also increasingly looking at solar power, hydrogen and energy storage.

To whom does it sell?

Typically, our projects enter into contracts – known as Power Purchase Agreements – with companies who sit between power generators and the retail companies that supply businesses and households with power. However, we also have direct agreements with businesses, with an increasing focus amongst corporates conscious of the need to reduce their own environmental impacts, and who can also reduce their bills by purchasing directly.

Muirhall Energy has tangible assets of around £30 million with significant funding in the bank to invest in our development project pipeline.

How many employees does it have?

We now have 35 employees, up from 25 at the start of the pandemic.

When was it formed?

Muirhall Energy was founded as a company in 2009.

Why did you take the plunge?

I was working as a police officer when I decided to develop a windfarm on an actual farm that I had bought with a view to setting up some holiday cottages. I felt the farm needed renovating, but it had around 400 acres and I saw the potential to build a wind farm on the land, as a way to produce clean, green energy. I set it up as a project which not only involved my farm but the three neighbouring farms, while continuing my work in the police. However, it became so much work that I stopped being a policeman and became a full-time wind developer. The project later became Muirhall Windfarm, which became Muirhall Energy’s first big project.

I worked as a Lothian and Borders police constable for around 15 years. This included working in firearms, the CID and also its drugs team.

HeraldScotland: Muirhall Energy developed Crossdykes windfarm in DumfriesshireMuirhall Energy developed Crossdykes windfarm in Dumfriesshire

How did you raise the start-up funding?

To regenerate the farm, South Lanarkshire Council allowed us to sell three plots of land with planning permission to build houses on them. The cash from that, coupled with family money, provided the start-up funding needed.

What was your biggest break?

My biggest break was born out of what was potentially a disastrous situation. In 2008 I had negotiated a deal to sell our first windfarm to another owner. However, due to the global financial crisis, the strength of the euro against the pound meant that the deal eventually fell through. We buy turbines in euros. This resulted in us keeping the rights to the project which eventually became Muirhall Windfarm. It was the launchpad for our current success, as from there we sold a part share in the windfarm, which allowed us to expand into other renewables ventures.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Using my entrepreneurial spirit to see opportunities from what might be interpreted as challenging circumstances. To me that’s what being in business is all about. It’s striving to turn potential issues into viable opportunities that bring real, tangible benefit your company.

I also like the company to provide genuine community benefit and a meaningful legacy for local people and community organisations. We pay up to £7,000 for every megawatt of capacity every year of a windfarm’s operational lifetime into a Community Investment Fund,which is invested in local priorities and opportunities – 40 per cent more than the joint government and industry protocol of £5,000. We also work with communities to ensure they are able to take an ownership stake in our projects.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

As a business, we want to expand our renewables team and projects so that we double in size in the next two years, but all the time maintaining our community focus. We want to do this by being part of a market transformation that drives forward the nation’s net zero ambitions.

What is your biggest bugbear?

The lack of joined-up thinking in the energy market. For example, why are we supporting companies to build new grid connections to mainland Europe while penalising investments in generation and storage here in Scotland through the transmission charging regime? And where are the systems to encourage businesses to locate or expand in Scotland to harness our renewable power, whether for manufacturing or things like production of hydrogen, something that is likely to be a key part of the future energy system? We have created an incredibly complex and mammoth set of rules which are no longer aligned with the transition to net zero and we really need to get back to first principles.

What single thing would most help?

Scotland pays the highest grid charges in Europe, by some considerable margin. This is because the original set-up of the system was to reward power generation closer to big population areas. As a result, Scottish wind farm developers are unfairly penalised despite Scotland being a renewables powerhouse, with 25% of Europe’s wind. If this was to change, it would at a stroke transform the wind farm industry, making net-zero targets more readily achievable.

HeraldScotland: A turbine blade is transported to Crossdykes windfarm Picture: Muirhall Energy A turbine blade is transported to Crossdykes windfarm Picture: Muirhall Energy

What could the Scottish and/or Westminster Governments do that would most help?

Because energy is a reserved matter, Westminster needs to act now. This would require Ofgem, the energy regulator, and the Department for Energy and Climate Change to both adopt a change in approach. The Scottish Government is already lobbying Westminster about this, and have done a great job so far and we look forward to working with both governments to bring in a fairer system.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

I didn’t come from a background of high academic achievement, but I learned if you put in the hours and hard, concentrated work, and believe in yourself, then anything is achievable.

How do you relax?

It may sound a cliché, but due to the pandemic I realise that every bit of down time spent with my family is precious. So when I’m not working I devote my time to them, and having fun.