The first phase of a project to modernise Shetland’s electricity network, allowing more capacity to be stored, is to start soon thanks to European funding.
The sum of £800,000 from the European Regional Development Fund will be given to Low Carbon Shetland for the development of thermal storage. This is essentially a large hot water tank which can accept electrical energy at a time that suits the grid. The hot water will be used for heating schemes in properties and will allow for the expansion of the existing district heating scheme into new areas of Lerwick.
A related project to support energy efficiency in social housing also receives some £1.3 million.
The thermal storage is part of the multi-million Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) scheme which Scottish and Southern Energy has pledged to progress, in spite of missing out on cash from energy regulator Ofgem last year.
The innovative NINES project, expected to cost £51.6 million, should open up the Shetland grid to an almost four-fold increase in the amount of green energy by 2014 as well as cutting the amount of polluting diesel fuel burnt by Lerwick power station.
The new cleaner “smart” grid will be enable small-scale wind farm owners to feed into the local grid without having to wait for an interconnector, and will store enough energy to be able to cope with fluctuations in demand.
The cash boost of £800,000 is part of a £18 million ERDF package to benefit renewable energy, tourism and road improvements across the Highlands and Islands. Also set to benefit from the money is the Sumburgh Head Restoration and Development Project, which will receive £1.44 million “to improve the visitor experience”.