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Ministers Take Step to Support Economic Future of Altnaharra



Windfarm by National Rural Knowledge Exchange via Flickr

The creation of Creag Riabhach Wind Farm on the Altnaharra Estate in Sutherland has been agreed to by Scottish Ministers, after The Highland Council consented to the application in September.

The wind farm will consist of 22 turbines, with a total generating capacity of 72.6MW.

The project, which was first submitted to the Scottish Government in January 2014, has been developed by a private company in partnership with a local working estate in Sutherland. Tim Philpot, Director of Creag Riabhach Wind Farm, said: “We welcome the decision by Scottish Ministers to consent Creag Riabhach Wind Farm. Over the last five years our dedicated team has been continually engaging with the local communities, the Highland Council and Scottish Ministers to deliver a project that we can all be proud of.

“Not only will Creag Riabhach generate up to 72.6MW of clean, renewable energy, but it will also give the communities of the North Highlands region a lasting legacy benefit of £700,000 through the Estate’s Altnaharra Foundation. This is aimed at providing employment and business opportunities in the area and includes a partnership with North Highland College UHI, to provide training and skills, employment opportunities, and apprenticeship funding for local employers.

“I would like to personally thank all those who have supported us over the past five years; your commitment and dedication to our project has been unwavering.”

The voices of the local communities in Sutherland have been heard, and we can now take this opportunity to invest in our future.

Pieter Bakker, Estate Manager and tenant farmer at Altnaharra Estate, said:

“The decision to consent Creag Riabhach Wind Farm is a significant boost to our estate and our community. Altnaharra Estate is the main source of employment in the area and this project will help secure additional jobs for local people.

“We have always had a policy of supporting local businesses and are in the final stages of completing a £1m plus forestry project, which has provided work for many local companies. Creag Riabhach Wind Farm will work to this procurement model, supplying important job opportunities for local contractors.

“My local community and the other communities surrounding the estate will significantly benefit from this project, which will provide up to £9 million in inward investment. This investment will be delivered as an annual contribution to a community benefit fund, and used to support important local projects. “The economy in Sutherland is fragile and in desperate need of investment, in particular in Altnaharra. This is why we are all so delighted with this positive outcome. Projects like Creag Riabhach Wind Farm are vital to our communities, and are the only way in which we can create a sustainable legacy for future generations in the area.”

Jim Johnston, Secretary of Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra Community Council also commented:

“We are delighted that Scottish Ministers have recognised the benefits that Creag Riabhach Wind Farm will have for our local communities. This development will provide a unique opportunity for the widely dispersed communities of northwest Sutherland to work together for the common good. We are very pleased that the voices of local communities in this most sparsely populated part of Scotland have been listened to.”

“The five Community Councils – Scourie, Kinlochbervie, Durness, Tongue, and Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra – have agreed to participate in the North and West Sutherland Charitable Trust to distribute part of the community benefit fund, with the Altnaharra Charitable Trust also assisting with the distribution of this crucial investment.”

Dr Paul Monaghan MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross added: “I am absolutely delighted that the Creag Riabhach Wind Farm has received consent to proceed. This particular renewable energy development is a shining example of just what can be achieved when local communities are fully involved in major infrastructure projects from their inception.

“With the consent of Creag Riabhach, I am particularly pleased for the people of Altnaharra who have worked tirelessly in support of this development and who now have an exciting future in prospect with investment taking place that has real potential for jobs, wealth and prosperity that can reverse decades of economic decline. Creag Riabhach is exactly the type of environmentally friendly and socially innovative development that can make best use of two of Sutherland’s finest resources: our people and our land.”


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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