An SIC committee has agreed to grant £250,000 to the Fair Isle electricity scheme that will guarantee 24-hour-a-day power for the island.
The council’s development committee heard that Fair Isle would be guaranteed day-long power for the first time once the multi-source scheme is running. Despite having a combination of wind and diesel power since the 1980s, it is presently lights-out between 11pm to 7am when there is no wind at Fair Isle.
One of the existing wind turbines is reaching the end of its days while the other has stopped working, the committee heard. The scheme also has no storage ability or capacity for new customers.
The new £2.65m plan is for three 60kW wind turbines, a 50kW solar array and lead-acid battery storage of 500 kW hours – enough roughly for 24 hours electricity supply.
Project manager Maurice Henderson said: “I would consider this as a key project in the development plan for Fair Isle for growing more population.”
He said that the scheme was not the highest tech system around but it had been designed for robust reliability – a key consideration in a remote island. It is intended to maximise the use of wind in times of low demand.
The committee heard that 24-hour supply had topped other considerations like broadband and a marine protected area during a consultation on what the isles folk would like to see developed.
Council economic development manager Douglas Irvine said: “It is a very good project for Fair Isle and a very good fit for our economic development policies.”
Councillor Amanda Westlake said it was a “strong project in a fragile rural area” that had been “very well received by the Scottish government.”
It ought to enable other projects like airstrip lighting, three-phase power at the ferry terminal and a fibre-optic link to the north end of the island.
The Scottish government has pledged half the cost of the project (£1.325m), with Scottish Water and HIE Shetland other major funders. The Big Lottery Fund has been approached for £600,000 but this money is not yet confirmed. The National Trust may also end up contributing up to £100,000. Fair Isle Electricity Company will put in £20,000.
SIC political leader Gary Robinson said: “It is clear that no stone has been left unturned in this one in search of funding.
“What we have here is a well thought through and carefully worked up proposal. It’s absolutely clear that Fair Isle needs to have a reliable energy scheme. I am really pleased to see the lengths gone to to bring in external funding”.
According to Mr Henderson’s summary of costs: £620,705 will be spent on the high-voltage system; £609,435 on the storage; £660,000 on the wind turbines; £125,000 on the solar power; £98,000 on new diesel generators; £192,000 on project management and £345,786 on a contingency fund.
South Mainland councillor Allison Duncan said that the project would help secure the future of Fair Isle and three new families were moving in after years of population decline.