Eigg Electric keeps the entire island running on wind, hydro and solar power

An Eigg Electric hydro power dam
An Eigg Electric hydro power dam

By SHAWNTAE HARRIS 

The island of Eigg – which lies 10 miles off the Scottish mainland – is the first community in the world to create clean electricity for the whole island all day long.

Owned by a community trust, Eigg – which is regarded as one of the most scenic islands in the Hebrides – creates energy from three different sources: the sun, the wind, and waves.

In 2008, Eigg switched from a loud diesel generator to clean energy, which changed the living environment for the 100 people in the community. They used to have two huge generators that would power the island for a couple of hours a day. With the new switch, the clean energy runs for 24 hours, seven days a week.

The electricity is not connected to any mainland power lines. The clean energy makes up about 90 to 95 per cent of the community’s energy.

The energy not only travels through the community but is run by the community, and the people of Eigg have learned to adapt to the minimum energy living. 

They are given five kilowatts of energy to use at a time, while businesses get 10 kilowatts. This is compared to the average household in America that uses 10,812 kilowatts per hour. So something as common as using the microwave and toaster at the same time does not happen on this Island.

However, sometimes when the weather is not co-operating there are always two backup generators just in case. These generators have 70 kilowatts each that also charge the battery bank. Whenever users go over their daily energy limit they are charged, €20, but this does not happen often. Four wind turbines are placed at An Sgurr, a mountain in Scotland.

The solar and hydro power is placed at different locations on the island to better understand which point is contributing more.

In the long summer months, the solar panels do most of the work. Since daylight is available longer, the solar power is primarily responsible for supplying energy. 

“These really come into their own in the months of May, June and July, when we get the really bright long days. They will give you over 25 per cent of their rated output,” said system designer John Booth, formerly a director of system operator Eigg Electric.

The project cost a total of $1.7 million, which was funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund. The purpose of this fund is to reduce the imbalance between developed and developing countries.

Eigg is a small community but it is currently growing from 65 residents to a population of 100 this year. They all agreed to use the same amount of power for each household. but Booth said the system is coping with the rise of population. 

“The demand on the system is rising,” he said. “But all the evidence says that we got it right at the outset and it’s coping.”

A power grid allows the energy to reach everyone on the island. Owl Meters lets the residents of Eigg know when they are using too much energy. Residents buy electricity cards for either €10 or €20. This allows members of the community to use only what they need.

Published with permission of http://www.theplaidzebra.com

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