Fern Community Funds

Octopus Group case study: Fern Community Funds - Wind Farms

Key facts

Managed by: Octopus Investments/Octopus Renewables

Location: Beinneun and Cour windfarms, Scotland; Grange windfarm, North Lancashire, England

Size: 48 wind turbines across all sites

Homes powered: More than 140,000

Renewable energy generated: 410,000 MWh each year (equivalent to 241,000+ barrels of oil)

Community funds generated: £670,000 per year across all sites

Overview

Octopus wind farms in the north of the UK deliver clean energy plus environmental and social benefits for the local community

Octopus has actively engaged with community projects in the north of the UK by offering funding to people who live, work or study near the windfarms it operates there.

Three windfarms in the area, owned by Fern Trading and managed by Octopus Investments, are generating renewable energy as well as returns for local people. The Beinneun, Grange and Cour windfarms have been operational since 2016-17 and between them generate enough energy to power 140,000 houses each year. Through the funding supplied by the windfarms, Octopus has backed projects including educational activities for schoolchildren, financial support for local university students, reforestation projects and energy subsidies to help residents with heating costs.

Octopus Group case study - Fern Community Funds - 280,000 houses

Fern-funded awards

The Fern Community Funds were created to provide social benefits to local residents and organisations near the Beinneun, Cour and Grange windfarms.

“The community benefit contributions are a stable, fixed amount per year, proportional to the size of each windfarm,” explained Harrison Brook, Senior Associate at Octopus Renewables. “They do not fluctuate with how much energy or revenue a site generates per year.”

Locals are encouraged to apply for funding awards. Their applications are then reviewed by assessment panels made up of people living in the windfarm catchment areas. After that, the final decision about who the money will benefit most falls to Octopus.

The grants have so far proven substantial enough to make a real difference to the community. “You have relatively large areas geographically, but with small population numbers. There are maybe a few thousand people who can access new funds of about half a million pounds a year,” said Angus Robertson, Fern Community Fund manager, who connects Octopus and the local communities. “Charities, local organisations or social enterprises can apply for funding for projects that bring a significant benefit to these remote areas.”

Octopus Group case study - Fern Community Funds - Benefits to local residents

Wide-ranging community benefits

Through the funding awards, Fern supports a huge range of projects. In the past awards have helped with programmes to rewild areas through reforestation, promote regional ecotourism, enable research in deer management and much more. The funds have also supported the production of local newsletters and gone towards new materials for the Invergarry & Fort Augustus Railway Museum.

Social housing and energy subsidies

For some people in northern England and Scotland, fuel poverty is a very real problem. To combat this, the Octopus windfarm funds are put to work to help residents stay warm. In the Beinneun community, for example, all qualifying residents are entitled to a bursary of £250 to put towards their fuel costs. On top of that, Octopus have funded the construction of social housing. “We’ve committed £100,000 from the Beinneun fund to the construction of social housing there, which now has planning permission,” Brook told us. “It’s one of the largest projects we’ve backed.

Octopus Group case study: Fern Community Funds - Harrison Brook

Education

Plenty of Fern’s funds have gone towards inspiring and educating the next generation. One award went to the Tarbert Castle Trust, near the Cour windfarm. It helped pay for a project in rural Argyll, where local youngsters could take part in an archaeological excavation at the castle site. After getting involved in the dig, a local student commented, ““It has made me want to learn more about Scotland’s history. It means a whole lot to me.”

The windfarm at Grange was also the host of a school trip itself. After local kids wrote to Octopus Renewables asking to visit, the team couldn’t resist joining them on a field trip. Their teacher, Aimee Bainbridge, told us how much the children enjoyed the day, adding, “This is an experience they will remember their whole lives and who knows what it could lead to for any of them?”

Another portion of the Fern offers scholarships to help students with university costs. One recipient, Jamie Walker, is studying history at Stirling University. He said, “Without the scholarship I would have had difficulty in meeting the costs associated with living away from home and the costs of studying.”

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