Category Archives: Scotland

Fair Isle’s community group gains support for extending its renewable energy supply

Fair Isle was bought by the National Trust for Scotland in 1954 from George Waterston, the founder of the bird observatory. It is 24 miles south of Shetland, surrounded by rich fishing waters. Most of the islanders live in the crofts on the southern half of the island (below).

Fair Isle’s fifty-five residents hope to develop the three-mile long island’s infrastructure to sustain and attract more people to live here in the most remote place in the British Isles, inhabited since the Bronze Age. Its distinctive knitwear has a worldwide reputation – see:

As powerful winds mean that Fair Isle is often plunged into darkness, with blackouts usually striking at the most inopportune moments, a community group, the Fair Isle Electricity Company, is leading plans to install three 60kW wind turbines, a 50kW solar array and battery storage. This scheme will bring round-the-clock electricity to the island and help to bolster its dwindling population.

Existing wind-power will be extended to the north of the three-mile-long island, enabling grid connections to the water treatment works, the airstrip, North Haven harbour and the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, after securing £2.6 million in funding.

  • Earlier this year the company was awarded capital funding of more than £1 million through the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP).
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) agreed to contribute £250,000 to the renewable energy project
  • There was a lottery grant of £600,000.
  • The scheme has received £250,000 from Shetland Islands Council
  • and £245,000 from the National Trust for Scotland (which owns Fair Isle).
  • Scottish Water gave £208,000.
  • The island’s bird observatory donated £100,000.
  • The Fair Isle Electricity Company is contributing £20,000.

The island houses a series of high-technology relay stations (left)  carrying vital TV, radio, telephone and military communication links between Shetland, Orkney and the Scottish mainland.

A Fair Isle resident, David Wheeler, a former meteorologist who worked on the introduction of the original wind power system, said continuity of supply would transform domestic life on Fair Isle. “It’s the little changes to our lives that will make a difference, like the television no longer cutting off when the snooker is on or the washing machine shutting down in the middle of the cycle with the clothes still inside. They’re small issues but they do matter.”

Robert Mitchell, director of the Fair Isle Electricity Company, said the project would bring new employment opportunities to the island and sustain existing jobs. “Having a constant electricity source may help to attract more people. This ambitious project is the first step in ensuring that the community of Fair Isle continues to thrive.”

Sources include:






Community-owned solar panels for 25 Edinburgh council buildings

Following news on this site (August 2015) about the development of solar technology in Scotland, official data in December showed that renewable electricity generation in 2014 was – remarkably – equivalent to 49.7% of Scottish demand, up more than five percentage points from 2013.

ed skyline

Edinburgh Council’s news that community-owned solar panels are to be installed in 25 council buildings throughout the city was published on their website and widely reported in the media: “We are aiming to meet our target of reducing Edinburgh’s carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 and this project is an important step towards us achieving this.”

The Council will work in partnership with the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative – (ECSC) supported by Energy4All – to deliver the initiative, believed to be the UK’s largest community-owned urban renewable energy project.

ECSC is organizing a large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) project on Edinburgh roofs; up to 1.5MW of solar PV will be installed on 25 public buildings that have been investigated with the Council.  The buildings have been selected to provide good income-generating capacity on buildings spread all around the city (see below) and used regularly by communities.

ed solal coop map

The directors decided that a project on Edinburgh roofs would offer the best chance of delivering a viable co-operative energy project in the city.  Edinburgh is the lowest on the UK city league tables of installed PV and it is thought that this is because many people live in tenement flats, with no access to the roof. But even so far North historical sunlight figures for Edinburgh in EDSC’s calculations show that – while not as sunny as the South East of England – it works!  South facing roofs have been selected, optimising orientation.

ed solal coop logoThe public share offer was launched on 29th September, 2015, and raised £1.4m. By offering a capped return on share interest to members of 5% per annum and returning capital as we go, the co-op generates a surplus profit for community benefit. This is a model which has proved to work successfully in other cities throughout the UK and Europe.

Two installers were bidding for the work and, as it proved difficult to choose between them,  ECSC decided to let each visit all the sites and come back with a firm price – one that wouldn’t increase during the structural design stages. Emtec was approved as the preferred supplier and ECSC will be proceeding with them subject to contract.  The Board has also approved Onsite Renewables to project manage the construction.

ECSC has offered Edinburgh residents the chance to own solar panels collectively, do something positive about climate change and benefit financially while at the same time helping Edinburgh to become a cleaner, greener city.  With Government incentives for community ownership, project scale and recent reductions in the cost of panels, roof mounted solar PV arrays are now a viable business model.  



Harlaw hydro is now generating clean energy

In an earlier post it was reported that Ribble Valley members of Transition Town Clitheroe aimed to develop greater community resilience to cope with reduced future availability of fossil fuels and to adapt to climate change. They floated a community share offer in 2013 to raise money to generate community-owned clean energy on the River Calder.

harlaw reservoir 2





The Scottish Farmer has now added news of another hydro project based at the Harlaw reservoir (above), outside Balerno, near Edinburgh, first mentioned on this site in 2013. The organisers found an upgrade of the existing micro-hydro scheme at Harlaw Reservoir a positive experience and are keen to share the benefits of such an investment, particularly as part of a community project.

The project aimed to provide an independent green energy source and income for the local community. Chairman and director of the community group, Martin Petty recalls that a village trust had been established to help the community and the hydro project was proposed. After a consultation, a co-op which offered shares in the project was set up. A feasibility study in 2010 confirmed that it was a practical and profitable proposition and after four years of planning, meetings and obtaining approvals, the group were in a position to build the project in July, 2014. Work started in September, 2014, and was completed in August, 2015, with the formal opening by the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, taking place on September 1, 2015.

Harlaw Hydro Ltd is now known as a bona fide co-operative society (BENCOM) and it is registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965, rather than as a company under the Companies Act. The society has seven directors and 250 shareholders, who together raised nearly £400,000.The profits generated by selling power to the grid will be used to sustain the scheme in the first place, pay the shareholders a dividend, and then benefit the local community.

harlaw pump house

The 95kW system will take water from the dam’s penstocks (reservoir dam outflows), returning flow to the dam discharge channel prior to it, forming Bavelaw Burn. A new turbine house (above) is located to the north east of the discharge channel, at the foot of the reservoir dam, immediately south of the disused building.The scheme will generate approximately 260,000kWh of green electricity per year – enough for approximately 100 average houses – saving 129 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

The project was the first in Scotland of its type and Mr Petty feels it has set an example to other communities: “Communities across Scotland have been energised by this project, and they’ve come to us as a point of advice, and now a number of others are doing the same as us. It’s great to see, and it’s great to be that point of contact.”

Commenting on the project, Mr Petty added: “We were lucky to have a great group of people on the engineer team, which was luckily made up of men who are all, or have been, engineers. The team included a mechanical, charted civil and electrical engineers, as well as a geologist and an architect, all of whom worked on a voluntary basis, so we were really lucky with that.”

Interesting article about pumped storage systems in Scotland:



Scottish government invests in less polluting shipping built in Scotland. Will it go one step further?

In September 2014, Ferguson Shipbuilders, then in administration, was bought by Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers Capital. The business, renamed Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd, rehired some of the 70 employees who had been made redundant.

The shipyard then secured a new £12 million contract with Scottish state-controlled ferry company Caledonian Maritime Assets (CMAL) to build a new diesel-electric hybrid ferry for operator CalMac. The Ferguson yard had previously built two other hybrid ferries for CalMac – the MV Hallaig (below) and MV Lochinvar.

mv hallaig

In October this year, a £97 million contract for Ferguson Marine Engineering of Port Glasgow to build two 100-metre long ferries for the government’s Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) was signed.

Mr McColl says the hybrid ferries have been criticised for their far higher cost, but there is increasing demand for less polluting shipping as the European Union tightens curbs on sulphur emissions. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added, “This new vessel will be fuel efficient and have lower maintenance costs, whilst ensuring a quality service for passengers . . . Scotland remains at the forefront of ferry design and innovation.”

Mr McColl is hopeful of winning a bigger prize, with a CMAL tender for two 100m ferries to be decided in the next few months, but for a company only recently out of administration, collateralising the bond required for a new vessel is “quite penal”; he says: “I have mentioned it to both the Scottish government and the UK government and everybody’s very willing and keen to make sure that something’s put in place but meanwhile life is going on:

“If you’re focused on building up your engineering and your manufacturing sector . . .  you have to put in place the kind of support that the Germans and the Poles and the Turks have got for their industrial base.”

Portpatrick Harbour

portpatrick harbour

Portpatrick Harbour: news relating to this site’s three foci: the environment, heritage and beneficial innovation

In July 2015, the Portpatrick Harbour Community Benefit Society became the first “Community Benefit Society” in Scotland, registering with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and obtaining full charitable status.This was achieved with the support and guidance of Community Share Scotland, Cooperatives UK, Social Investment Scotland and Third Sector Dumfries & Galloway.

Portpatrick’s name is derived from a legend which relates that the Patron Saint of Ireland crossed the 21-mile channel in a single stride.

Between 1770, when the first proper harbour was built by John Smeaton and 1830, the harbour served as the main route for mail, passengers and cattle to Ireland, and was the terminus of a military road built across Galloway from Dumfries to secure the area in 1765. Fishing became an important feature of harbour life and, during the 1950s, the “ring netters” of the Clyde fleet would land huge catches of herring from around the Isle of Man and the North Channel. Portpatrick still has a small fleet of fishing boats. Below: its sea ‘wall’.

portpatrick sea wall

Anca Voinea in the Co-operative News, reports that the Portpatrick Harbour Community Benefit Society is launching a share offer to bring Portpatrick harbour into community ownership. The scheme aims to raise £75,000 to regenerate the harbour.

The society’s management team has eight committee members, three of whom have varied professional management experience, with four who hold professional marine qualifications.

Over the past few months, Community Shares Scotland has been working with the Portpatrick Harbour team on this offer which will allow local people to buy community shares. The Community shares offer will open on 5th September.

‘Solar Independence Day’ in Scotland

In July, Building Construction Design reports on celebrating ‘Solar Independence Day’ events in Scotland, ‘showcasing’ solar homes, solar schools, commercial solar rooftops and solar farms. People were invited to visit a local solar farm, big rooftop installation or showhome.

On two days locations across the UK opened their doors to the public to celebrate solar energy and showcase its potential. Scotland’s leading solar provider Forster Energy facilitated on-site solar viewings/talks at two venues – a farm in Perthshire and a National Trust for Scotland estate in Aberdeenshire.

solar ind logoChairman John Forster said that Solar Independence Day is an opportunity for individuals, businesses, charities and community groups to find out more about the potential of solar. By attending one of the  events people can see and hear at firsthand how solar enables consumers to generate their own flexible, cheap and clean energy supply.

Cronan Farm in the heart of Strathmore was the venue for the first event on Friday morning. The MJ & J McLaren broccoli and potato enterprise has installed a 720 panel solar array to provide power for the farms cold stores. The installation exemplifies the appetite for solar amongst Scottish farmers, keen to reduce their energy costs by generating their own electricity. Below, sheep continue to graze under the solar panels.

scot solar sheep

Earlier, the Scottish Farmer published an article about potato growers who were facing high electricity bills for their cold stores and are now leading the adoption of solar power in Scotland. Mark Fazzini, managing director at One Solar, reported a considerable increase in commercial solar installations on Scottish farms across 2013, particularly in Perthshire and Angus, where relatively cheap photovoltaic technology was fitting well with both potato and soft fruit production and storage systems. “PV solar works very well alongside cold stores as the PV production is at its highest in the summer months when the cooling requirement is generally at its highest,” said Mr Fazzini. “The chilled environment required for packaging and storage of soft fruits makes great use of PV production too.”

scot solar shed

Similarly, the chilling equipment used in dairying works suits PV outputs, although Mr Fazzini stressed that electricity from solar sources could also offset the cost of running heavier machines, like milking equipment, conveyor belts and and shed scrapers, and again tended to deliver its power at the times of greatest need.

The National Trust for Scotland , which owns Pitmedden Gardens, provides an idyllic setting for the second event on Saturday morning. The NTS has installed a 115 panel array on the roof of the gardeners storage shed, which is generating power for the Museum of Farming Life and other buildings. The solar array is also generating enough electricity to power six homes. The Trust is rolling out solar power across a number of their sites to help reduce their energy costs and cut their carbon emissions.

In May the BBC reported that data from WeatherEnergy showed that sunshine in Edinburgh in April generated more electricity than is used in an average home – a total of 113%. In Aberdeen the figure was 111%, 106% in Glasgow and 104% in Inverness. About 35,000 homes and 600 business premises in Scotland already have solar panels and WWF Scotland has now called on more home and business owners to make use of the technology.

Britain’s offshore wind achievement and wave power potential

pilita clark

In March the FT’s environmental correspondent Pilita Clark [above] reported that, on Sunday 17th of August 2014, 22% of the UK’s electricity supply was generated by wind – a ‘record high’.

Though in other EU countries such as Germany, Spain and Denmark, the record is approximately double, the UK is said to have had more power from offshore wind than the rest of the world combined since 2011 and has led the European industry for eight years. Ms Clark gives noteworthy statistics:

  • one large turbine has been planted on the UK seabed every 40 hours for the past five years on average, supporting about 7,000 full-time jobs;
  • hundreds more are promised as Germany’s Siemens and Denmark’s Vestas expand their turbine-making operations, in Hull and the Isle of Wight respectively;
  • the UK now has 1,300 turbines in 24 wind farms, including London Array, the world’s biggest offshore wind project, in the outer Thames Estuary
  • and all these together generate enough energy to power more than 2m homes.

eis header

The Engineering Integrity Society is organising its 4th conference on Durability and Fatigue Advances in Wind, Wave and Tidal Energy: September 2015, hosted by the Institute for Energy Systems, School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh.

As secured funding for the 6MW first phase of the world’s largest commercial tidal energy production in the north of Scotland has been announced, EIS emphasises that these new challenges require enhanced design for integrity and reliability that is based on established and new practices.

The 4th EIS WWT conference aims to provide a platform for the discussion of current technological developments in this area. There is an impressive list of event speakers, drawn from companies in this sector, as well as from experienced professionals and academic researchers working with emerging technologies in theoretical assessment of renewable structures.

This event is open to the public: Full brochure and Registration Form

wave hub test site

Five months ago the Guardian reported on the marine energy sector, which employs more than 1,600 people. Wave companies such as Seatricity at Wave Hub in Cornwall and Aquamarine at EMEC are generating electricity. One long-term investor Fortum, a Finnish firm, has a leasing agreement with Wave Hub in Cornwall and invests in Wello, a Finnish wave developer.

Wave Hub is the world’s largest and most technologically advanced grid connected site for the testing and development of offshore renewable energy technology, where wave energy technologies & tidal and offshore wind developers from around the world test in open sea conditions. If the reader goes to its site, s/he can see a videoed graphic – though BIS and EU funding would have been spent to better effect by using an informative voice-over, rather than vaguely inspirational music.

As an island with a wind-swept coast, though much smaller than Australia, should we further develop our coastal energy potential? As Carnegie Wave Energy’s chief executive, Michael Ottaviano, told ABC News “theoretically, the resources that hit our coastline every day could power the state 10 times over”.