My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Green Paradise???

An interesting case study in the reality of green energy...
Please spare a thought this morning - as you pop the kettle on, put some bread in the toaster and dither over whether to load the washing machine, do a spot of vacuuming, or soak in a hot bath - for the 87 residents of the very small Isle of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides.

Because thanks to an energy shortage on what claims to be the 'world's greenest island', use of toasters, electric kettles, fat fryers, washing machines and 'pretty much anything with a heating element' that could drain Eigg's dwindling electricity supply is strictly rationed until further notice.

And down by the pier at the island's southern end, bright red notices flutter in the wind, warning that power levels are critically low.

'We're on red alert,' explains Maggie Fyffe, secretary of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. 'Which means we all have to rein in a bit.'

Which is the teeniest bit ironic. Because in January the residents of Eigg were being feted and praised for their amazing and innovative £1.6 million triple solar, wind and hydro-electricity-generating system which was switched on in February 2008 and has reduced carbon emissions by more than 30 per cent.

It was claimed to generate more than 95 per cent of the islanders' energy needs from renewable sources. Islanders were even awarded a prize of £300,000 in a nationwide competition for those who best tackle climate change.

Right now, however, their award-winning and highly complex eco-energy system, which allows each household access to a maximum of 5kW of energy at a time (enough to power a washing machine, a small heater or a kettle, but not all at once), is lying largely idle.

So the wind turbines are still and silent. The hydro turbines in the rivers and dams are quiet. And toasted teacakes and hot tea are off the menu at the Eigg Tearooms.

So what on earth's going on? Have the Eigg eco-innovators been victims of some act of jealous vandalism? Has their award- winning electricity system blown a fuse?

Er, no. It turns out that when the good people of Eigg put their faith in strong winds and pounding rain to provide all their electricity needs, they overlooked one possibility - a spell of lovely weather.
Eco-friendly: Eigg claims to be the 'world's greenest island', but an energy shortage means use of 'anything with a heating element' is strictly rationed until further notice

Eco-friendly: Eigg claims to be the 'world's greenest island', but an energy shortage means use of 'anything with a heating element' is strictly rationed until further notice

For the past few weeks, the five-by-three-mile Scottish island has been basking under what constitutes a heatwave in their part of the world.

Temperatures have topped 70f (rather than the usual 59f), there's been no decent rainfall since May (half the annual norm for this time of year) and water levels in the three main rivers have plummeted and cut off the island's hydroelectricity supply.

On top of all that, the winds usually blasting across the island have dwindled to pathetic breezes, leaving the wind turbines useless and the locals on bread and cold tea for breakfast. In other words, the Eigg experiment has proved that relying solely on the forces of nature for power can be a dangerous business.

So how have the locals dealt with this blow to their eco dream? Well, what would be bound to cause extreme consternation in London, Manchester or Glasgow doesn't seem to bother the residents of Eigg.

They're far too busy planning other eco projects, such as an electric community bus, an eco house for volunteers, producing biodiesel from old chip oil and growing vegetables in polytunnels.

Indeed, they're still marvelling at, what is to them, the modern wonder and pleasing novelty of having mains electricity delivered to their whitewashed croft houses. For this island only got a regular electricity supply in February 2008. They're hardly going to worry about a few weeks of cold tea while it doesn't work.
Shortage: Notices have been posted on the island warning that power levels are critically low

Red alert: Notices have been posted on the island warning that power levels are critically low

'We've never taken electricity for granted,' says Maggie, 61, has lived on Eigg for 34 years and has a daughter and granddaughter living nearby.

'Until a couple of years ago, I was supplied by a tiny hydroelectric generator that produced a maximum of 1kW of power. Which powered my lights, TV and computer, but not a washing machine, electric kettle, toaster or anything like that. And I was one of the lucky ones.'

A few of her neighbours had no running water and others relied on their own generator which had to be turned on every morning by hand.

'So if you got up for a pee in the middle of the night, you had to take a torch with you or fumble about in the dark,' she adds.

'And the noise was terrible. If you walked round in the evening, you'd hear a terrible thumping of generators.'


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