Exploring the Archaeology of Burgar Hill

If you think archaeology in Orkney is only about Neolithic or pre-historic remains, important as they are, think again.

‘Orkney Energy Landscapes’ led by Dan Lee, Archaeology Institute of UHI and Richard Irvine of St Andrew’s University is hoping to record and capture the archaeological fragments of Orkney’s relationship with energy production.

On Saturday, 26th of June 2021, Dan Lee led a small group of students and members of the community to explore the area on Burgar Hill (HY 34398 26039).

Today there are 6 wind turbines at Burgar Hill. These range from the Nordex N60 1.3MW turbine to the Neg Micon NM92 at 2.75MW. Around them are the remains of the bases and other infrastructure of the experimental wind turbines that were here in the 1980s.

Many readers will remember when these experimental wind turbines were in place. Structures included:

  • Wind Energy Group’s twin-bladed rotor MS1 250KW – a 20m diameter rotor device
  • A Howden HWP 300 generator
  • The 3MW LS1 generator – a 45m high cylindrical concrete tower with 60m span twin blades

The Burgar Hill site was crucial in demonstrating that large scale wind energy production was possible.

This project by Dan Lee and Richard Irvine is of vital importance because records of this experimental phase of wind energy production, including first hand accounts of those involved, are sparse or not there at all.

On Saturday the group surveyed and measured the remains of demolished structures. They also recorded other features of the built landscape: for example the visitor centre that once welcomed people to the site with its array of information boards and a touching memorial plaque to Bryan Amey from his colleagues.

If you have more information on the early development of the Burgar Hill wind farm site,any of the other sites that will be examined, or if you would like to participate in this project you can find out more here: Places Still Available: Help Explore Orkney’s Energy Landscapes

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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