“The Bleeding Edge Can Lead The Way”

As part of the Orkney Science Festival Orkney Renewable Energy Forum (OREF) hosted a talk about the Energy of Orkney. The speakers were Ian Johnstone and Mark Hull , both Directors of OREF, who spoke to a packed Stromness Town Hall on Thursday 6th of September.

Ian Johnstone gave a brief outline of Orkney’s history in the production of energy. He described Orkney has having a tremendous resource regardless of what governments do with a potential total production of 5,000MW.

Ian Johnstone said:

“People in Orkney tend to understand energy.”

By 2013 Orkney was a net exporter of energy produced by renewables – mainly wind. It has trialled more wave and tidal devices than any other place in the world – 30 to date.

1 in 10 households make their own power and it has the highest uptake of EVs in Scotland. It also has the highest rate of fuel poverty in the UK.

Ian Johnstone looked at what the renewable industry contributes to the local economy. It employs 300 people. There are 750 micro wind turbines and 400 solar/heat pumps. There are also 8 large scale community turbines providing energy to 800 houses. The renewable industry also has over 50 local investors. And there are 200 electric cars on the islands.

The Renewable Industry in Orkney is an international one reaching out across the globe.

Renewables talk 3

Turning his mind to the future Ian Johnstone referred to autonomous vehicles – land and marine and the use of electric or hydrogen vehicles in agriculture. Ian Johnstone finished with the important point that all Orkney’s Food and Drink is produced using renewables. Something Orkney the brand could think about for future promotions.

Both Mark Hull, who spoke next, and Ian Johnstone looked at the replacement of Orkney’s internal ferry fleet, due to be completed by 2028. The existing vessels are guzzlers of diesel and the idea is to have these replaced with ferries powered by hydrogen.

For the ferries to mainland Scotland funding has already been secured for  cold ironing/charging before boarding scheme at Stromness. £670,000 Awarded to Stromness Greener Travel Project

Mark Hull’s expertise is in working with communities which he calls ‘leading from the bleeding edge’.

Mark Hull said in Orkney we: ”  Know where our feet are but can see the horizons”.

There is a tremendous amount of engagement in Orkney around renewables with  community owned turbines generating transformational amounts of money. The income can be used locally to do a wide range of things: improve roads, deal with internet not-spots,provide training opportunities and sustain community services.

He spoke of the challenges with the Grid when it simply cannot cope with the amount of energy being produced in Orkney which results in wind turbines being switched off – a huge loss of potential income.

SMILE – Smart Island Energy Systems – explores “ways for islands to capitalise upon their energy resources” and Orkney is leading the way in the developments.It is funded by the European Union. You can find more about that here: SMILE

On the island of  Eday and more recently Shapinsay the Surf N’ Turf project of hydrogen production was initiated as a solution to what to do when you are producing so much energy that the Grid cannot cope with it.  This project benefits from Scottish Government funding.

Hydrogen 2

Hatston, Kirkwall is home to the refuelling station where the council owned vehicles are able to refuel with hydrogen produced on Eday and transported there by ferry.

You can read about it here and the difficulties it has had recently Software Glitch Puts Hydrogen Refuelling Station Temporarily Out Of Use

The Oil and Gas facility on the island of Flotta has been in operation since 1977. It used to produce 10% of the oil needs for the whole of the UK and even for a short time 15%. Flotta was and is hugely important to the energy needs of the UK and Mark Hull thinks that Hydrogen production in Orkney could be ‘the next Flotta‘.

“The bleeding edge can lead the way”

Renewables talk 4 Science festival 2018

Reporter: Fiona Grahame


Leave a Reply