Generators step in while turbines in Fair Isle are refurbished

Fair Isle residents are having to make do with generators while the two wind turbines which supply all their electricity needs are refurbished.

One of the turbines has been taken down so that its gearbox and alternator can be repaired, and the other is also out of action. When the first is re-assembled in midsummer the second will be taken down for repairs. Both will be re-erected by the end of the summer.

The work is being done by engineering firm Malakoff on behalf of the Fair Isle Electricity Company. The first turbine was taken down last week by two men from the company and two locals.

Malakoff engineer Chris Irvine said taking down the turbine was a “nice job” for the company and had been carried out on a glorious day. It had not been difficult, he said, it was all a matter of having the right equipment which had been brought up from Aberdeen.

The turbines require constant maintenance and Fair Isle men, including Robert Mitchell, climb up the outside with harnesses around once a month for general maintenance and to grease the mechanism. They also attend to the machines when they break down.

Mr Mitchell said there had been no way of removing the gearbox apart from taking the turbine down, a job last done in 1999.

“It has been a massive job to take it down, and we had to have specialised equipment,” he said. “Fair Isle has had good use out of the windmills, but we are constantly looking at how to improve our system to have 24-hour power.”

At the moment power cannot be stored and islanders are exploring the posssibility of a solar power scheme along the same lines as Foula.

The turbines were erected in the 1980s in an electricity scheme developed by Barry Sinclair, who was recently named by a national newspaper as a “green hero” for his work.

Described by Mr Irvine as “very robust”, the turbines are expected to provide another 10 years of service.

The islanders are currently relying on diesel generators but the power is off between 11.30pm and 7.30am to conserve fuel.


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