FAIR Isle residents are another step closer to enjoying 24-hour-a-day power following the completion of a £2.65 million funding package for a renewable energy project that will revolutionise life on the island.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has confirmed its £250,000 contribution to the project, being led by community group Fair Isle Electricity Company. Last month a lottery grant of £600,000 was confirmed.
The three-mile long island has used a combination of wind and diesel power since the 1980s, but it is presently lights out between 11pm and 7am on nights when there is no wind.
Fair Isle’s 55 residents have recognised the importance of developing the remote island’s infrastructure to sustain and grow the population.
Only one of its two existing wind turbines is working, and it has been operating intermittently over the past 18 months. It also has no storage ability or capacity for new customers.
The new £2.6 million plan involves three 60kW wind turbines, a 50kW solar array and battery storage.
The scheme will also extend a high voltage network to the north of the island, enabling grid connections to the Scottish Water treatment works, Fair Isle Bird Observatory, the airstrip and the North Haven harbour.
Great Glen Consulting was appointed as project manager and technical design and engineering will be carried out by Arcus.
Earlier this year the company was awarded capital funding of more than £1 million through the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP).
The scheme has also secured £250,000 from Shetland Islands Council as well as £245,000 from the National Trust for Scotland (which owns Fair Isle), Scottish Water (£208,000) and the island’s bird observatory (£100,000). Fair Isle Electricity Company itself is contributing £20,000.
HIE development manager Fiona Stirling said: “This is a key project in the development plan for Fair Isle and we are delighted to support it. Improving the island’s local energy system supply is one of the highest priorities identified in the recent community development plan.
“It’s a key factor in attracting new people to the island as well as helping businesses to develop. The new energy system will also be cleaner and greener and will reduce reliance on expensive diesel, hence making living costs more sustainable.”
Fair Isle Electricity Company director Robert Mitchell said: “Having a constant electricity source may help to attract more people to live in Fair Isle as well as benefit the residents. It will also bring new employment opportunities and sustain existing employment.
“This ambitious project is the first step in ensuring that the community of Fair Isle continues to thrive.”