Orkney Energy Futures

“We are all islanders on this ocean Earth.”

Orkney Energy Futures a new book by Laura Watts had its launch on Thursday 21st of February at the Warehouse Buildings, Stromness.

Laura Watts

It was back in 2008 that Laura Watts first came to Orkney as a researcher and in 2015 she began writing this particular book.

The event took the form of readings from the book by the author and a set of 3 discussions.

The Energy Laboratory – Laura Watts in discussion with Neil Kermode and Gareth Davies of OREF (Orkney Renewable Energy Forum)


Laura Watts OREF group

L- R Neil Kermode, Gareth Davies and Laura Watts

In her reading Laura described the tension in Orkney between generation in the islands and a constrained grid. Laura saw Orkney as part of an archipelago of other islands across the world who are also developing renewables: Madeira, Taiwan, Japan  – we are part of an ocean of living laboratories each with their expertise to be shared.

Gareth Davies felt Orkney’s success was due to a “collective purpose to what we do” which is “often unspoken but achieved in an organic way.” It was a place where energy is imagined.

Neil Kermode pointed out that as a ‘Living  Laboratory’ it gave Orkney a license to try and a willingness to experiment. It was about inspiring people to be positive of a sustainable future not driven by burning fossil fuels where “the impossible of today is the normality of tomorrow.”

The Orkney electron is a renewable one which not only produces energy but 300 jobs in renewables. As part of an Islands Deal even more jobs would be created estimated at 1000.

Energy Islands – Laura Watts in discussion with Clive Brookes and Andy Stennett from the Eday community and Mark Hull of Community Energy Scotland

Laura Watts Eday group

L-R Clive Brookes, Andy Stennett and Mark Hull

Laura’s reading for this section described islands as the ‘barometers of the Earth’. ‘What happens at the islands’ edge is often the litmus test for the future’. “We are all islanders on this ocean Earth.”

Andy and Clive described the development of renewables on Eday and the enjoyment of being part of a journey which has now taken them into hydrogen production.

Andy said:

“If you want to do something different, Orkney is the place to do it.”

“Opportunities arise from problems if you can’t get all your energy into the grid.”

Reflecting on island memories of times when we lived within our means Mark Hull saw renewables as an opportunity to use energy production to sustain the island’s community.  He spoke of the intelligence that island communities have and their ability to turn things into resources. It was important for communities to maintain the value of their resources and address the challenge of ownership.

Energy and Arts – Laura Watts in discussion with Anne Bevan , Orkney College UHI and Pam Besant , poet.

Laura Watts Art group

L – R Anne Bevan and Pam Besant

The discussion started with a short video of Stromness School pupils and a project they had worked on with Anne Bevan – Wave Sculptures.

The long standing connection between art and energy was covered in this session. It included reference to the Campaign against Uranium Mining in Orkney with Margaret Tait’s seventies film of this and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies composition ‘Farewell to Stromness’ .

The evening came to a close with votes of thanks, a book signing and libations of Highland Park.

Orkney Futures by Laura Watts is available from Stromness Books and Prints and The Orcadian Book Shop. All royalties from the sales will go to THAW  Orkney – a charitable organisation  to help assist fuel poor households in Orkney.

Laura Watts talk audience

Reporters: Fiona Grahame and Nick Morrison

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