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Canna harnesses Atlantic gales to generate power

Canna wind turbines.
Canna wind turbines.

Positioned 23 miles out into the Atlantic, one thing residents on one of the UK’s remotest islands are not short of is wind – in fact, gales often cancel their ferry for days on end or keep them housebound.

But now, the 18 residents of Canna are finally living the green dream – thanks to those same strong winds.

They have started receiving their power through renewable sources from a £1.3million scheme built in the most challenging of locations.

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Islanders raised the cash for the green energy system based mainly around wind, as well as solar and better battery storage.

The island – and neighbouring Sanday, which is joined by a road – are not connected to the national grid and previously used three diesel engines to produce power.

But the renewable sources will now provide more than 90% of what is needed – and hopefully 100%.

The scheme is centred on six wind turbines, and a photo voltaic array, which together are capable of generating 60kW of electricity.

They have now taken over from the generators after an eight-month build and started producing their first power.

Lifelong resident Winnie Mackinnon, 56, said:”You can boil a kettle and run a hoover at the same time without any worry,” she said.

“We don’t have electric cookers on the island, so they do not eat up the power.

“It is not any cheaper currently than the old system, but will probably be in the future, especially when compared to the expected future rises in diesel. The maintenance costs are less and it is giving reliable 24 hours electricity and is cleaner for the environment.”

Canna Renewable Energy and Electrification Ltd (Creel) director Geraldine MacKinnon said: “It is fantastic. It has been a long-standing ambition for our community.

“The island is exposed to the full force of Atlantic gales and we can finally start to put that to good use.

“As well as reducing the noise and pollution from the generators the new scheme will give us the capacity to build additional houses here, so that we can increase the number of people who can make their home on this beautiful island.

“We’re very grateful to all of our funders for their support in this vital project.”

Creel will own and operate the new equipment, putting any profits back into the running of the system to help reduce bills for the residents and businesses – and possibly community projects.

Funding was secured from the Big Lottery Fund, the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme, SSE Highland Sustainable Development Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise as well as the National Trust for Scotland.

Canna, a two-hour sail from the port of Mallaig, is served by a ferry five days a week and is owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

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