Social Investment Scotland (SIS) has a role in funding the UK's largest community-owned commercial-scale wind farm, Beinn Ghrideag in the Western Isles.

Led by former MP Calum MacDonald, the 9MW project breaks new ground in community-owned renewables projects previously been kept small scale as community groups struggled to secure sufficient finance.

The size and scale of the wind farm are not of greatest significance. The potential social and economic benefits that such innovative community-owned projects can bring are.

Studies have shown that the local economic impact of renewable energy projects is much greater from community-owned schemes than from private developer-led schemes paying into a community-benefit fund. In the case of Beinn Ghrideag, it is expected that, over the course of a 25-year lifespan, it will return £20 million to community projects across the Western Isles.

The developer, Point and Sandwick Power, which is wholly-owned by the community, worked with Point and Sandwick Community Councils and the wider community to agree a Community Investment Plan that will see revenues from the wind farm invested into seven key social projects.

These include providing life and work skills training to young islanders with special needs; rehabilitation and employment services for those with alcohol and drug histories; long-term funding support for the island's local hospice; tackling fuel poverty and increasing energy efficiency; the creation of new biomass woodland on under-utilised crofts; and supporting the isles' largest arts and culture venue.

The project is also expected to create jobs both directly at the wind farm and also more widely through community investment schemes, meeting the domestic power needs of 6,000 homes and reduce CO2 emissions by between 12,000 and 25,000 tonnes per year.

Over the past year, SIS has witnessed a consistent growth in demand for finance from community renewable projects that account for one-fifth (£3m) of its total lending portfolio. Demand from local communities for investment in renewable energy projects is undergoing a resurgence, helped in part by a supportive policy context.

Initiatives such as Feed-in-Tarrifs and the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, as well as the Scottish Government's focus on maximising local ownership, have opened up opportunities for communities.

It's not just bigger communities with more sophisticated administration structures that are turning to renewables to build sustainable futures. Many smaller communities are looking to renewable energy to secure their local energy requirements whilst generating income to support the local population.

In recent years we have been involved in several landmark investments including the Loch Carnan Community Windfarm on South Uist, the Neilston Community Windfarm, Callander Community Hydro and the Merk Hydro Project.

Typically, these projects have involved local communities working with a developer and funders to install turbines that will generate electricity and, subsequently, revenue to support local projects with long-term, sustainable social objectives.They allow communities to gain control over their energy supplies and harness a steady revenue stream that can be directed to meet community needs.

In an age where community empowerment, sustainability and energy security are three of the biggest issues we face, community renewables have the potential to offer solutions. At SIS, as we look to connect more capital with communities, the renewable energy sector is set to remain a key element of our plans. Our close relationship with Scottish Enterprise's Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF), which has co-funded Beinn Ghrideag, will support this. With the right investment, community-owned renewables projects can make a significant social impact in local communities and ensure communities see real benefits from the use of their land and resources.