The awareness and involvement of a local community in a renewable energy development project is an essential aspect of Falck Renewables business approach.
This is why, ever since its first projects in the UK in 2005, Falck Renewables has chosen to engage with local communities throughout the entire process of wind farm development: from the preplanning-application phase, to the construction phase, as well as conceiving an innovative collaboration approach in the wind farm operations.
In each project, Falck sets up a community liaison group, so that an effective communication between the company and local stakeholders could promptly address those issues that may arise during the wind farm construction. Moreover, through this interaction, the company can introduce to the local population what are the opportunities for community development – such as community schemes - originated by the wind farm presence.
There are two sets of initiatives that Falck promotes in order to share the value of its presence with local communities in the UK.
1. Co-operative investment scheme
- Falck Renewables gives individuals living close to a wind farm the opportunity to own a share in its wind farms. The co-operative investment scheme is a pioneering and award-winning initiative that has been developed in collaboration with Energy4All. This involves setting up an independent co-operative to own a financial stake in a wind farm alongside Falck. Individuals from the local area are given priority in the purchasing of the co-operative’s shares. They receive a yearly dividend over their investment that, to date, have been very much attractive.
- The co-operative (or Bencoms) buys a share in the profits from Falck Renewables and in turn, local people who have joined the co-operative can usually invest between £250 and £20,000.
- Profits from the sale of green electricity produced by the wind farm are distributed to members through an annual dividend.
- The first Falck co-operative was at Boyndie in Aberdeenshire and received the Scottish Green Energy award for Best Community Project in 2006.
- Falck has also pioneered a new approach to community involvement which integrates community turbines into the Group’s projects.
There are currently around 3,000 investors in the Falck co-ops, that have collectively invested around £ 8M.
As a partly different measure of promoting the involvement of the local community, Falck also offers a community scheme at Earlsburn wind farm, in Stirlingshire, where one of the turbines is operated by Falck, but directly owned by Fintry Renewable Energy Enterprise (FREE), a company set up by Fintry community.
2. Community Benefits Scheme
- For each of its wind farms, Falck conveys annually an agreed share of its profits (usually adjusted to inflation) into a trust fund to benefit local community development.
- This fund is used to support a range of local initiatives which, depending on the needs of the community, might include educational activities in schools, cultural projects, local environmental schemes or energy efficiency interventions.
- Projects that have been so far funded through community benefit schemes are very much diverse, as every community has different needs. To give some examples: building children play parks, providing hospice equipment, funding new uniforms for a pipe band or exercise classes for retired people, supporting youth theatre groups, delivering heart defibrillators for remote rural communities or equipment for a community radio station.
In 2015, Falck Renewables paid out £608,141 to the different trust funds.
Looking into the next years, if we include both operational and under-construction projects, the total amount of community benefits that Falck will provide from 2017 onward will get to £1m per year.