The UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is to pay 50% of the costs of establishing a scheme for community ownership in a wind farm at Laggan on the Scottish island of Islay. Through the Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU), its renewable energy arm, the DTI is contributing £50,000 towards financial and legal costs and the structural work involved in facilitating a share issue to the local community.

The project developer, English wind company Windcluster, is to provide the other half of the start up costs in the £100,000 project. According to Windcluster's Euan Cameron, the study will also determine the form of community involvement most suited to the population on Islay. "The idea is to produce a blueprint for community involvement in small wind farms," he says.

At this stage the company cannot predict how successful its invitation for islanders to buy shares in the scheme will be. For this reason discussions are ongoing with The Wind Fund to arrange for the scheme to be underwritten.

The DTI is conducting a similar exercise with another community ownership scheme -- this time at Harlock Hill in Cumbria. It is co-funding the additional costs involved in setting up a model for community involvement along co-operative lines, this time in a project of five wind turbines being developed by The Wind Company. The firm is an offshoot of a Swedish developer which has successfully used this method of financing wind projects through community ownership.

Work is already well advanced on The Wind Company's Harlock Hill project, but there are still several issues to be resolved -- mainly related to tax benefits. According to the company's Simon Boxer, covering this ground for the first time is a long and expensive exercise. "We are doing this to make sure that future community projects are cheaper to set up. It is a long slog, but at the end there will be some structures on the shelf ready to use," he says. He hopes to have the final model in place by January or February 1996.

Boxer claims to be pleased that two methods of community involvement are being pursued -- one for community ownership along capitalist principles and the other for a wind farm owned co-operatively by local people. "It is good to see the Scottish scheme going down a private company route. It is going to give a boost to the whole future of community ownership in this country," he says.