Islanders in Foula will soon be self-sufficient in electricity thanks to a healthy handout from the Big Lottery Fund.
The Foula Electricity Trust was this week awarded £220,000 towards renewable energy in the island as part of the fund’s growing community assets scheme.
The money will go towards the building of three small 20kW wind turbines, as well as battery storage and back-up generators, which will bolster the island’s hydro-electirc system.
The funding represents phase two of a project to modernise the isle’s power supply which began in 2004. This phase got the go ahead last year after five years of development.
Prior to this, Foula residents were resigned to 12 hours of electricity a day thanks to the island’s outdated, unreliable and environmentally unsound diesel generator system.
Other plans to connect the island to power from the Mainland via a cable to Walls, as well as the idea of a larger windfarm, were vetoed due to their cost and opposition from RSPB, which felt a windfarm would be damaging to local bird life.
A combination of hydro and solar power has been supplying the majority of homes in Foula with electricity since late February last year. With the extra funding announced this week two remaining properties which are yet to be connected, as well as a further house which may be renovated, will also enjoy a more reliable electricity supply.
All 28 islanders would then have access to electricity and, impor-tantly, not have to ration supplies.
The wind turbines will also provide an income to the island through the renewable obligation certificates scheme, which will see money paid back to the trust for its contribution to sourcing green energy.
Because many areas in Foula have been designated sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) the process of gaining planning permission has been lengthy.
West Side councillor Frank Robertson, chairman of the trust, said the organisation would be beginning to put together a tender for the installation of the turbines over the next few weeks, however there were some special stipulations and the trust will not be able to undertake any works on the site during bird breeding season, which runs from March until September.
Mr Robertson said he was “absolutely delighted” that the trust had received the funding. “We’ve been working continuously for a year, and over the past few weeks Isobel Holbourn and myself have been flat out with the final requirements for the Big Lottery fund.
“We’re very, very pleased; I would be very doubtful of it going ahead if we hadn’t received the funding. We’re working towards Foula being totally self-sufficient.
“The Foula Electricity Trust is delighted to learn that the Big Lottery Fund has funded our application towards a renewable elec-tricity scheme for our island. “This will go towards the installation of wind turbines and battery storage designed to augment the recently commissioned hydro generation scheme previously fun-ded by BIG.
“When this second phase is completed next year, the island will be fully self-sufficient in renewable energy generated by wind, water and photo-voltaic panels.
“Thanks to BIG’s generosity all our islanders will be able to benefit from a 24-hour electricity supply generated at an affordable cost and enjoy an improved standard of living with future opportunities for community regeneration and local development.”
Big Lottery Fund Scotland chairwoman Alison Magee said the cash would help some of the most remote communities in Scotland to become more sustainable in the long term by securing energy sup-plies and income.
Ms Magee said: “Today’s awards, funded through our growing community assets investment area, will go a long way to help several communities acquire and develop assets that will make them more self reliant and sustainable.
“I am delighted to announce the award to Foula Electricity Trust to allow them to complete the second phase of their plan. This is a wonderful example of how lottery investment can help to regenerate a small community and I am delighted that the Big Lottery Fund has once again played a part in the island’s transformation.”