IT is the birthplace of Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean and has a population of just 170, but now a renewable scheme could place the Isle of Raasay firmly back on the map.

The west coast island is already known for its breathtaking scenery and secluded beaches, but now it could be leading the way with green energy.

Development plans are under way which would see the creation of two community owned hydro-electric generation schemes which would not only harness energy for the island but also the chance to sell the excess.

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However, it is a business plan with the community at its heart as a proportion of any income generated would be ploughed back into local projects or initiatives.

It is led by a team of young island-based directors operating Raasay Community Ltd and while they have raised more than £300,000 already, they require another £650,000 to take them to the next step.

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Stunning views on the Isle of Raasay

Supported by Community Shares Scotland, the offer will see the creation of two community owned hydro-electric generation schemes which will contribute to supporting the local population and environment. The schemes will harness the combined potential of Inverarish Burn Hydro and the Mine Burn Hydro, generating, on average, 520,000kWh of electricity each year, translating to annual savings of 127 tonnes CO2 emissions.

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Situated between the Applecross peninsula and the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Raasay is home to 170 people. In September 2020, the community set up Raasay Community Renewables Ltd (RCR), a Community Benefit Society to develop sustainable energy infrastructure projects.

Led by a young Board of Directors, Raasay Community Renewables sees the hydro schemes as the future to both environmentally sustainable power for the island as well as long term financial resilience, funding community projects which will improve the lives of the island’s residents.

HeraldScotland: Poet Sorley MacLean who was from the Isle of RaasayPoet Sorley MacLean who was from the Isle of Raasay

Poet Sorley MacLean who was from the Isle of Raasay

Ross Gillies, from Raasay Community Renewables, said: “We have raised more than £300,000 in grants to support the build and we need a further £650,000 to bring the project to completion. The community share offer is a fantastic opportunity to invest in social and environmental causes and see a financial return for your support in the years to come.”

The benefits which the project will bring could be quite transformational for Raasay. A Community Benefit Fund is being set up to distribute a proportion of the income generated to members of the community, supporting local organisations and causes.

The directors say the focus will be on ensuring that the funds are distributed in a way that meets the community’s needs, wants and priorities, particularly with regard to supporting environmentally beneficial projects.”

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “A community hydro scheme has been a long time in the making for Raasay, and it was great to see the work starting on forestry. I know there is a lot of work to do – not least in raising funding – but it’s exciting to see this progress. I hope there will be widespread interest and the community will be able to reach their funding target in time.”

Community Shares Scotland, an initiative set up with funding from the Scottish Government and the National Lottery Community Fund to support the raising of money through community shares, has supported in the region of 400 community groups since the programme launched in 2014.

The organisation has launched 41 community share offers over the past six years, totalling over £13m worth of investment from over 12,000 community members, which has been match funded by £24m from other sources.

During the past year, Community Shares Scotland has experienced its busiest ever period, launching eight share offers during 2020 and is projected to launch a similar number of schemes during 2021.

Morven Lyon, Programme Manager at Community Shares Scotland, said: “Raasay Community Hydro is a great example of the focus which the Scottish Government is placing on a ‘green recovery’ following the Covid-19 pandemic. Projects such as these are very well suited to the community share model, which taps into an appetite for socially conscious projects and investment models which deliver a renewed sense of community control and local identity.”