Scottish islands - a solution in sight?
15 May 13 - Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer
For people in the Western Isles, and Orkney and Shetland, the
issue of electricity links to the UK mainland has been a
Until recently, the UK grid was fit for purpose - designed for
transmitting and distributing electricity from big, central power
stations to our towns and cities and onwards, through ever thinner
wires, to the far-flung periphery of the UK.
But for more than a decade, this system has been turned on its
head - green energy goals mean we must now collect energy from the
far north and west (where it is windiest, waviest and least
populous) and operate our grid system in reverse.
This means we need bigger, fatter transmission cables connecting
our islands, and new lines to replace the wooden poles and bits of
'wet string' on our remote coasts.
Problem is, the system operator National Grid and regulator
Ofgem still view the world through pre-green energy glasses - and
charge phenomenal fees for generators who want new lines for
renewable energy schemes built far from the centres of demand.
In my view, it makes sense to generate electricity on the far
edges of the UK, and particularly in the Scottish islands, where
not only the wave, tidal and wind energy is some of the best in
Europe, but is where many local councils and residents want
renewable energy, to help boost fragile remote economies.
It is good for UK consumers too - UK Energy Minister Ed Davey
and regulator Ofgem have both published analysis which shows that
the best prospect for our future energy bills is a diverse energy
mix, where renewables combine with base load power to mitigate
against price shocks caused by wholesale fossil fuel costs.
And at last it seems the UK Government is coming to a similar
view (the Scottish Government has been on-side for a number of
Today's report 'Scottish Island Renewables Project'
concludes there IS a clear social and economic case for putting
island links in place.
The report draws on extensive interviews with wind wave and
tidal developers with plans on Scottish islands and paves the way
for a solution - most probably some form of intervention from both
This is crucial not just for Aquamarine Power, but the wave and
tidal sector in general -and keeps alive the possibility the
Western Isles interconnector could be built by 2017.
This dovetails neatly with our own ambitious plans for a 40MW
Oyster farm off the west coast of Lewis. We expect to get full
approval for our proposal in the coming weeks, and a 2017
completion date for the grid would fit well with our development
We have not definitively solved the issue of island grids just
yet - but it looks very much like the willingness to tackle the
problem head-on has, at very long last, arrived.
full report Scottish Island Renewables Project can be