The Isle of Eigg – Offshore, off-grid energy communityIsle of Eigg, United Kingdom Energy Communities, Local social sustainability
The Scottish island of Eigg is not connected to the mainland electricity supply. After spending decades running of off costly and environmentally damaging diesel generators, Eigg Electric provided 24 hour power for the first time in February 2008.
Eigg Electric is a community owned, managed and maintained company which provides electricity for all island residents from the renewable sources of water, sun, and wind. No more pouring smelly and expensive diesel into noisy generators, just clean, reliable electricity for everyone.
The new Isle of Eigg electrification scheme was a community inspired project to electrify the whole island.
When the system started generating power on 1st February 2008, continuous power was made available for the first time to all residents and businesses on the island. Until then, every resident was dependent upon making their own electricity, mainly using costly and inefficient generators. Further, for the first time, the renewable resources of wind, water and solar generated electricity were integrated into a grid system designed to supply an isolated and scattered small community.
The electricity system is entirely stand-alone. It has no external input from a mainland utility and is operated and maintained for the community by Eigg Electric Ltd. a wholly owned subsidiary of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. Repair and servicing is the responsibility of a trained maintenance team of island residents.
Why it works
Power is distributed from the renewables via 11km of underground cable that was laid to form an electricity grid for Eigg. This high voltage grid delivers electricity around the island, while transformers convert the power to domestic voltage into homes and businesses.
The system was designed to take power from renewable resources sufficient to provide the island with a continuous reliable electricity supply with minimal use of fossil fuel generators, at all times of the year. No burn (stream) on the island has sufficient bulk flow of water throughout the year to provide our needs through hydroelectric generation alone.
Wind generation provides the complement through most months of the year. The photovoltaic panels might appear to be the lowest yielding, least cost effective, component of the system, when their output is viewed as a contribution to the annual supply of electricity. However, it is in the summer months that they come into their own and make a significant energy saving contribution to the overall economics of running the system.