June 28, 2010

Power rationed on ‘green island’ Eigg after mild weather causes drought

By John Bingham, Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk 28 June 2010

It was hailed as Britain’s first “green” island and a glimpse of the what the future could hold for the rest of the country.

But when the inhabitants of the remote Scottish island of Eigg put their faith in the wind and rain to provide all their electricity they did not reckon for one thing – mild weather.

Now the 95 residents are being asked not to use kettles, toasters or other kitchen appliances after uncharacteristically mild weather caused a critical shortage of power.

Other household equipment such as washing machines are to be used only outside times of “peak” demand for the island’s 45 homes and 20 businesses.

Weeks of what passes for heatwave conditions in the Inner Hebrides have caused water levels on the island’s three main burns to drop uncharacteristically low, cutting off the island’s hydroelectricity supply.

The normally powerful Atlantic gusts in the tiny island south of Skye have also reduced to a pleasant breeze leaving the island’s wind turbines idle for hours on end.

As a result, the community owned power company has placed the island on “red alert” and issued notices effectively rationing electricity.

It has had to revert to using old-fashioned diesel power to run a backup generator to keep the lights on.

The shortages come only months after Eigg’s innovative renewable power grid won a share of a £1 million first prize in a nationwide competition to become model on how to tackle climate change.

Its community-owned triple solar, wind and hydro generating station, thought to be the first of its kind, impressed the judges in the Big Green Challenge, run by the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

When the power scheme was switched on in 2008, it transformed life on the island, bringing mains electricity for the first time.

Residents described it as bringing Eigg “literally out of the dark ages”.

“We are suffering from a lack of rain in general, believe it or not,” said Maggie Fyffe, secretary of the Eigg Heritage Trust, the group which runs the island since the 1997 community buy-out which ended centuries of semi-feudal control.

“More than half the power comes from hydro sources so the drought has hit us hard. There has also been a lack of wind too.

“We have now sent out emails and posted notices saying we are on level ‘red’ – which restricts the use of electrical items that are a drain on supply.

“People are having to go back to boiling kettles by gas and doing their washing at night – outside peak demand. Deep fat fryers are a definite no-no.”

The trust is now planning to spend part of its £300,000 share of the prize money on more solar panels to prevent a repeat of the shortages in future years.

Last month the area had just over an inch of rain, half of the usual total for the time of year, according to the Met Office. A similar pattern has been seen throughout the spring.

On Sunday temperatures on nearby Skye inched toward 70F, cool by comparison to conditions seen in the south but well above the average high of 59F.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2010/06/28/power-rationed-on-green-island-eigg-after-mild-weather-causes-drought/