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Full power for Fair Isle by September

Work is ongoing in Fair Isle on the new electricity scheme. Photo: Austin Taylor

FAIR ISLE is on course to enjoy a 24-hour electricity supply for the first time by the end of September.

Work is processing well on the remote island’s new electricity scheme after the community group Fair Isle Electricity Company secured its full £2.65 million funding package last year.

The plan will see the installation of three new 60kW wind turbines, a 50kW solar array and battery storage, while it will also extend a high voltage network across the island.

Shipments have arrived in Fair Isle from Orkney. Photo: Austin Taylor

Fair Isle Electricity Company director Robert Mitchell said the trench work has nearly been completed thanks to Aberdeen’s Chap Group, while electricians are currently undertaking alternations on properties prior to the new high voltage system being put in place.

“We should, at beginning of May, have the company coming up to build us the bases for the new three turbines,” he added.

“Everything is on schedule, and everything is looking good to be finished by the end of September.”

Some materials have been shipped up from Orkney, with bags of aggregate recently being taken north.

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.

The two existing wind turbines have suffered technical problems, while there is also no storage ability or capacity for new customers.

One of the existing turbines, which is due to be replaced. Photo: Austin Taylor

The project has received funding from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme, Shetland Islands Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the National Trust for Scotland, which owns Fair Isle.

Mitchell said guaranteed 24-hour power could attract new businesses and residents to Fair Isle, which has a population of around 55.

“I’m sure there will be a few teething problems as we go along, but the fact that everything is happening, after all these years of trying to get 24-hour power and trying to upgrade the system…I think there is a lot of anticipation on the island that at least we’re going to get it,” he said.

“A decent infrastructure does improve the quality of living on the island, but also there’s the potential for new businesses to start.”

Mitchell added that funding applications have been put in to rebuild some redundant housing on the island and connect them to the new electricity scheme.

He also feels that the project could enable more new builds on Fair Isle too.

“With a decent infrastructure we can look for sites on the island now to build houses and connect them to a system, whereas before there was no point in building new houses because we didn’t have any capacity to take them on,” he said.

“All that for the future will make a difference and should hopefully encourage people to come and live on the island.”