Orkney Islands leading the way on green energy

Orkney Islands leading the way on green energy

Feb 7, 2019
West coast of Orkney. Image credit: Owen Robertson via Flickr
Thursday, February 7, 2019

Perched off the windswept northern coast of Scotland, the Orkney islands were once a poster child for unsustainably, importing coal and gas from the mainland. Now the archipelago has become a shining example of environmental, social and governance, or ESG, principals.

The islands produce around 120 percent of the energy they need via wind farms, capturing tidal flows and a state-of-the-art power grid, reported Radio New Zealand. The islands sport 700 micro-wind turbines for households and six island-owned turbines.

“Orkney has an enormous amount of energy in the landscape and that is energy you can feel literally on your cheeks,” said Laura Watts, author of Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga, a book published by MIT Press this year.

The excess power in the system has become a challenge. It blows out fuses and electrical equipment.

The islanders have responded in two ways. First, they have developed expertise in maintaining and fixing clean technology in their backyards. Second, they are using the excess energy to produce hydrogen that they sell to earn extra money. They use an electrolyser that splits sea water into hydrogen and oxygen.

While small, Orkney represents a future that could revolutionize energy generation if applied on a grander scale.

“Innovation often happens at the edge and in a place like Orkney, and other places that if you live in a city might seem like a long way away, are often places where innovation has to happen because you are at the edge of the network,” Watts said.

Image credit: Owen Robertson via Flickr