Orkney islands generate more than 100% electricity from renewables

Heriot Watt ICIT logoMany people – including TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson – argue that the electricity used in EV’s (Electric Vehicles) is from ‘dirty’ coal or gas-fired power stations.

Whist this is a huge discussion (the energy required to make petrol and diesel uses a lot of electricity) there is one corner of the UK that is leading the alternative – Orkney.

These beautiful ancient islands are where the first settlers to the UK set up home around 5,000 years ago at places such as Skara Brae as they saw huge potential.

Today, huge potential is seen due to strong tidal currents and strong winds (thanks to the jet stream) which has given rise to a renewable power industry setting up many business on Orkney.

Last year 110% of Orkney’s own green electricity was produced with tide and wind power.

And with the island measuring around 30 miles by 20 miles, battery-powered vehicles (BPVs) are often the best way of getting around for islanders and visitors alike.

Orkney drivers have seen the benefits and have purchased or leased new and used EV’s and quite a number of owners have their own PV panels and wind turbines, so they make their own fuel (and get paid for doing so with the FIT payments !)

Orkney is around 30 miles north of John O’Groats and Eco Cars moved there in November 2013 to promote BPVs. With Eco Cars fast becoming known as the Electric Vehicle dealers on Orkney the future is looking good for renewables and clean air on this beautiful island.

Neil Kermode, Chair of the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum, explains how the system works. He said: “I have an electric vehicle and I have my own 5kW wind turbine.

“In essence most of the 500 or so turbines now in Orkney are connected through an inverter to the main supply meter in the house/business.

“I use electricity in almost the same way as I always have, I just flick a switch and the power flows. However on some occasions the power is coming from my turbine and at others it is from the mains, and on some occasions from both depending on what I am doing and how hard the wind is blowing.

“I say ‘almost the same way’ because we do adjust our behaviours depending if the wind is blowing; ie – we will run the dishwasher at night, unless it is blowing during the day. We may run the two immersion tanks up during the day if it is windy, and then not run them at all if it is calm….

“The car is just yet another electrical appliance and it is programmed to charge in the evenings from off peak electricity which is the time of lowest demand on the network and I am in bed, so the house is not using much power.

“Overall in Orkney there is a real push for renewables. 1 in 12 of the families here make their own electricity.  We have 1/8th of the UK’s domestic wind turbines and last year in total the islands generated the equivalent of 103% of our electricity demands from renewables (mostly wind).”

A common link in this chain of events on Orkney is Heriot Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology, where a spokeswoman said: “ICIT is recognised as a world leader in research, teaching & consultancy with particular expertise in managing the resources of the marine environment.

“We are ideally based in Orkney, a renewable energy-rich area with 550 miles of diverse coastal habitats.

“Our three established MSc programmes attract students from around the world. We design the renewable energy courses to produce highly qualified graduates who can fill the skills gap in the emerging renewable energy sector while the marine resource management programme provides graduates with a broad expertise in the management of marine and coastal resources.

“We continue to develop a strong research and consultancy portfolio, enjoying mutually productive links with industry, Government and other academic bodies at local, national and international levels.”

Wave and tidal power represent the next frontier in marine energy.  Scotland is at the forefront of this development – and Heriot-Watt’s Orkney campus is situated alongside the highest concentration of wave and tidal energy deployment activity in the world. 

See the University online prospectus for the full MSc Marine Renewable Energy programme description and entry requirements.

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