Most of us take 24-hour electricity for granted, but not so the 55 residents of Fair Isle who from today (Oct 12) will benefit from a new scheme that will give them reliable round the clock power for the first time.
The three-mile long remote Scottish island has used a combination of wind and diesel power since the 1980s, but it has been lights out between 11.30pm and 7.30am on nights when there is no wind.
But that will all change thanks in part to the hard work of engineers and electricians from SSE Enterprise Contracting, who have just completed a six-month project to power up Fair Isle – which is located between Shetland and Orkney.
Scottish Energy and Islands minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP declared the new electricity scheme officially open after the community group Fair Isle Electricity Company secured a £3.4 million funding package.
SSE Enterprise Contracting’s involvement was led by Mike Ferrier, who described it as one of the most logistically challenging projects he had ever led but eased by the warm welcome from islanders.
“This is the fifth Scottish Island that we have helped power up with round the clock electricity,” explained engineer and project manager Mike Ferrier from SSE Enterprise Contracting.
“Without doubt it’s been one of the trickiest to pull off because of Fair Isle’s remoteness. Our role was twofold: one to install a 3.3kV HV network and secondly, we also provided each property with a dump load facility to allow the residents to benefit from the extra energy generated as a source of cheap heating. We also changed the LV Network and wired the control room, which can be accessed remotely, and incorporates the diesel generators, batteries, control panels and inverters.
“Simply getting the equipment on site was a challenge because we had to charter vessels from Orkney and contend with the different weather conditions. Getting personnel there was also interesting because it’s either a 25-minute flight from Shetland or a ferry trip that could take 3.5 hours. Luckily our other island project at Canna, which is also near completion, has proved a bit easier because it has a ferry slipway.
“But what has made this project such plain sailing otherwise has been the warmth and hospitality of the locals who have welcomed our guys with open arms. The National Trust provided our small team with accommodation and the locals have been cooking for them so we’d all sit down and eat together like a Scottish version of the Waltons you might say!”
Fair Isle will see the installation of three new 60kW wind turbines, a 50kW solar array and battery storage, while it will also extend a high voltage network across the island. The hope is that the more reliable electricity supply will help boost the island’s population by attracting new residents.
SSE Enterprise Contracting is one of the largest contracting businesses in the UK, offering a broad scope of mechanical, electrical and street lighting services, and working out of 50 regional offices. It delivers everything from small scale projects to highly complex energy infrastructure projects.