'Renewable' energy island left in the dark

Scotsman on Sunday:
THE residents of Foula, Scotland’s most remote inhabited island which achieved a remarkable first by becoming 100 per cent self-sufficient with renewable energy, are now forced to endure black-outs.
An all-night black-out has had to be brought into force for the 22 homes on the isolated Shetland community, because of teething problems in the island’s £1.5 million hydro and solar power schemes.
Foula’s three wind turbines have been out of action since Christmas, when 100mph winds damaged the blades of one of the turbines.
Now islanders are back to relying on costly diesel generator until the faults can be rectified.
Two years ago the islanders, who live 20 miles from the Shetland mainland, were awarded £200,000 in funding from the Big Lottery Fund towards their combination of wind, solar and hydro power, enabling Foula to become the first Shetland community to become self-sufficient in energy. The final phase was completed last October.
But it has been revealed a series of problems with the pioneering green energy scheme has left the islanders having to rely on back-up diesel generators to power their homes.
And, because of crippling fuel costs, they are operating a blackout from 12:30am to 7am.
Frank Robertson, the councillor for Shetland West and a member of the Foula Electricity Trust, insisted yesterday the breakdown was a “teething problem” and round-the-clock power could be restored to the island by the end of next week.
Before the renewable energy scheme was installed, Foula was powered through one wind turbine and two dilapidated main diesel generators or individual generators at their homes.
The island now has three small state-of-the-art turbines –currently out of action – a hydro scheme in which a turbine is powered by water from a loch on one of the main hilltops, and a new photovoltaic solar panel scheme, which turns daylight directly into electricity.
The Scots have gone all out for alternative energy, but as this experiment shows it is not too dependable, especially when the weather is inclement.  It is too bad they do not have a supply of natural gas to rely upon.


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