Fair Isle celebrating historic milestone as 24-hour power supply goes live

The remote island community of Fair Isle.
The remote island community of Fair Isle.

Residents on the Fair Isle are celebrating today as a renewable energy system goes live, giving them a 24-hour power supply for the first time in the island’s history.

The overall outlay of the project has cost in the region of £3.5 million and has been led by the Fair Isle Electricity Company (FIEC) who represent the island’s 55 residents.

Robert Mitchell, company director of FIEC, said: “We are absolutely delighted to get to this stage. The directors of the community-owned company and residents are pleased with the support that we have had from all the funding bodies.

“As an important project in a fragile rural area, it will make a huge difference now and in the future and we hope that it will encourage more people to come and live on the island. It also provides a great opportunity for more businesses to start here.

“The new energy system will be cleaner and greener and will reduce reliance on expensive diesel, hence making living costs more sustainable. It’s an ambitious project and is another step in ensuring that the community of Fair Isle continues to thrive.”

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Prior to the delivery of the 24-hour service, the Fair Isle, situated halfway between Orkney and Shetland, previously only had access to power between 07.30am and 11.30pm each day.

The new island-wide high voltage network is being delivered by an innovative renewables system combining three turbines, a ground-mounted solar system and a battery storage – capable of holding up to 50 hours worth of power – with a range of social and economic opportunities available for islanders.

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse said: “Those of us living on the mainland of Scotland can often take reliable supplies of electricity for granted. This has never been possible for the islanders of Fair Isle.

“The reality of having, for the first time in their history, 24-hour supplies of electricity presents exciting prospects for the Fair Isle community, who will not only benefit from access to a reliable electricity supply around the clock but also now have in place a new cleaner, greener energy system.”

A combination of wind and diesel power has served the three-mile-long island since the 1980s.

Local resident Eileen Thompson said: “For our small community to be able to start and see through a big infrastructure project like this is exciting and it has gone really well and will really improve the quality of life for people on the Fair Isle.

“The project has been very well received by the community. To go forward we have to show the quality of life is improving and not getting worse.

“We are an ageing community with a small population so we have to make sure people who maybe want to move here are not put off and the securing of a constant power supply will help that.”