A Shining, Hopeful Example: Wind Power and Orkney Islands

When you are someone who cares about the environment the way I do—Clif and I refer to ourselves as green beans—it is easy to get discouraged. A focus on climate change, resource depletion, and overpopulation can lead to gloomy thoughts. And let’s face it—most of the news we read about the environment is not good, thus adding to the gloom.

Then in The Guardian comes Robin McKie’s piece: How Orkney Leads the Way for Sustainable Energy. (Thanks to Susanne’s Mom’s Blog for featuring this piece as well as providing the link to it.) According to Mckie, Orkney Islands—an archipelago to the northeast of Scotland—produces so much sustainable energy that they can’t use it all.

Holy cats!That news is enough to make this green bean snap with joy.

So how did Orkney Islands do it? First, because they are islands, all of their power came from the mainland, and their energy costs were expensive. Mckie writes, “Orkney was once utterly dependent on power that was produced by burning coal and gas on the Scottish mainland and then transmitted through an undersea cable.”

Second, Orkney Islands have wind and lots of it. “Low-lying and exposed to both the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, Orkney is battered by winds and gales throughout the year.”

Rather than gripe about how wind turbines spoil their view, the way we do here in Maine, the Orcadians decided to embrace the wind and use it to produce energy. How much energy? “Orkney…generates, on average over the year, electricity that fulfils 120% of its own needs.”

That’s right. Orkney Islands now have surplus energy that is clean and affordable. They are actually thinking of exporting that energy back to the mainland.

Anyway, McKie’s piece is well worth reading. On this sunny day where the snow from the last storm still hasn’t melted, Orkney’s  success with wind power gave me a much-needed lift.

Correction: I originally wrote that Orkney was between England and France. A couple of my blogging friends corrected that error, letting me know Orkney Islands were to the northeast of Scotland. Many thanks for letting me know.

38 thoughts on “A Shining, Hopeful Example: Wind Power and Orkney Islands”

  1. Hi dear Laurie, you might want to edit the location of Orkney in your otherwise lovely piece, it is an archipelago to the Northeast of Scotland 🙂💜 xxx

  2. I’d love to have a windmill here at my house! Do you think the neighborhood would object, or want to share in the cost AND the electricity?

  3. I am totally in favor of wind power. I too, have wanted a windmill for many years! I also do not understand why people think they are ugly… I would rather look at a windmill than those giant electric transmission lines. We are trying to get a solar energy coop going here on my peninsula in Maine. Hoping to see the legislature change the laws regarding energy coops soon so that maybe we can move forward.

  4. Here is a quote: “At the centre of Orkneys oil and gas operations is the Flotta Terminal, and since 1977, crude oil has been delivered from the North Sea to the crude oil processing terminal on the island of Flotta, right in the heart of Scapa Flow. Currently operated by Repsol Sinopec Resources UK Limited, the 385 acre site receives both crude oil and LPG at the Terminal via a 210 km pipeline from the Flotta catchment area in the North Sea. The economic benefit to Orkney is considerable, with 179 core crew being employed by the Terminal, many of whom are people living in Orkney.”

    When oil was first brought ashore, the Orcadians made sure that they got lasting benefit from the money washing about. This has made them able to make the investments in renewable energy which are nor current. It is to the eternal shame of the Westminster government that no such investment has been made with the oll income to benefit the rest of the country.

  5. Good to read about the Orkney wind power….generally speaking it seems to take a long time for countries to invest in the very kind of energy their countries can produce….Australia is slowly using more and more solar power, but the government has taken a long time to accept change…frustrating!

  6. I saw Caroline’s post about this before I read yours–it really is a wonderful initiative, and deserves to be shared around.

  7. I also prefer the look of those windmills to the ugly pylons that march across the countryside but I believe, if you live too close to them, they are quite noisy.

    1. I’ve read that wind turbines can be noisy, so siting is important. But the primary object in Maine is the way the wind turbines look. But it seems to me that nothing spoils a view like climate change. Sigh.

  8. D > You must have been thinking of the Channel Islands. Though with all that surplus energy, perhaps they could rig up an electric tug to tow the islands down south, to where it’s warmer, sunnier, and less wi… Ah, yes, so that’s what’s meant by ‘can’t have your cake and eat it’!

  9. Great post! It is extremely disheartening to look into issues like climate change and conservation, but it is necessary if we are to confront these problems and begin to solve them. Keep up the good work keeping climate change on people’s minds. Orkney uses wave energy as well as wind to generate their excess of renewable electricity. I wrote an article recently on how wave and tidal energy work if anyone here is interested in taking a look. Thanks again for the great read! https://adambolandblog.com/2019/05/16/shock-wave/

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, extremely disheartening to look into issues like climate change and conservation. I rail at my inadequacies and the inadequacies of my government. And yet onward, ho! I know personal efforts might not be enough, but I feel as though I must do as much as I can to life as low a carbon life as possible. Not easy. Right now I’m taking a short break from blogging, but I will be back in June, and when I am, I’ll add your blog to my reading list.

      1. It makes the whole thing less disheartening to hear you talking like that. We need more people to accept that institutional change is needed but also to do whatever they can to reduce their own footprint. Keep up the fight! I look forward to the return of your blog 😁

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