Documenting The Site of The World’s First Grid Connected Wind Turbine

As part of the St Magnus Way, Costa Hill is a popular walk with its terrific views across the West Mainland of Orkney and over to Rousay.

It is also the site of the world’s first wind turbine which connected to the Grid.

The site, HY30966 29872, has been mostly forgotten about and its unique place in the history of renewables. That is about to change with an archaeology project led by Dan Lee (UHI Archaeology Institute) and Richard Irvine ( St Andrews Department of Social Anthropology)in collaboration with ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology).

On Saturday, 3rd July, the project leaders accompanied by archaeologist Andrew Hollinrake, led a group of students and members of the community to record the remains of the wind turbine.

The 100 kW generator was built by the Hydro Electric Board. It had a steel frame tower built by John Brown Ltd and twin blades 15.5m in diameter. It was connected up in 1955.

This fascinating site has very little officially recorded for such a world leading development and that’s the purpose of the project,’Orkney Energy Landscapes’ that Dan Lee has received Lottery Heritage Fund money to explore.

There is a building left which once housed the instruments and various remains where the wind turbine was anchored. Also on the summit is where a mast and a beacon were located. The site had once been used in World War 2 as a Radio Station – ‘Ernie Tower‘.

Recording and researching the sites and the people involved in the development of renewables in Orkney is not just of local importance. This is of international significance.

Participants in the project also learn skills like surveying landscapes, detailed recording of buildings and photography. All of the data collected can then be brought together along with archival research and oral accounts to document this valuable site.

There is also film footage of the development of the wind turbine from the Scottish Screen Archive, licenced to Orkney Sustainable Energy.

And there’s always a different viewpoint to consider: Up Costa Hill – Before It’s Too Late!

For those interested in participating see the poster below.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

You may also like: Exploring the Archaeology of Burgar Hill

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