Orkney windfarm has a record beating 2015

The Hammars Hill windfarm in Orkney has had a record beating year, producing over 20,000 MWh of electricity, equivalent to providing the annual needs of 4000 households. The five turbine windfarm was largely funded by local investors and is a very successful example of a locally owned and locally managed renewable energy project; Orkney Islands Council, the local authority, is the largest investor.

The Hammars Hill project was constructed in 2010 and is located on a hilltop in Mainland Orkney.The project has been running successfully for over five years, with 2015 proving to be the most productive year to date. The project uses the Enercon E44 900kW wind turbine, and an annual production of 20,000 MWh from a five turbine windfarm of this scale is a capacity factor greater than 50%; this project is one of the best windfarms of its type in Scotland.

Orkney is a very innovative community, and has been at the forefront of renewable energy from the 1950s, when one of the first prototype wind turbines in the world was installed near to the Hammars Hill development. During the 1980s Orkney was the home of the first large scale turbine in the country, when the 3MW British Aerospace/GEC/Taylor Woodrow turbine was tested on Burgar Hill. This machine proved that large MW scale wind energy was feasible, and the project was a precursor to the offshore wind turbines now being installed in the seas around the UK. Orkney is now the site for the European Marine Energy Centre, with wave and tidal energy devices being tested in advance of commercial deployment.

Innovation continues to be very important to Orkney, and with over 500 wind turbines now in operation across the islands, the Hammars Hill windfarm has been connected to the National Grid via the Orkney ANM, the first smart grid in the country; the project can be restricted if there is too much electricity being produced. Orkney has been a net exporter of renewable electricity to mainland Scotland since 2013.

The Hammars Hill windfarm project was open to investment from individuals and organisations. Local shareholders provided around half of the funds required to build the project, with a further £3.8M borrowed at the start of construction in 2010. After five years the project has repaid all bank borrowings and is now providing a strong return to shareholders. The local authority invested £1M into the development by using funds from the revenue produced from the flow of oil through the Flotta Oil Terminal in Scapa Flow.

The Hammars Hill windfarm is an excellent example of the transformational nature of Island projects in terms of economic growth, sustainability, fuel poverty and transformation to a low carbon economy. It’s not rocket science; you need to build these projects where the wind resource is strongest. Orkney has some of the UK’s best renewable energy resources yet being at the end of the National Grid the Islands face significant challenges in grid capacity constraints and infrastructure developments, underpinned by a regulatory regime that is not helpful.

A good electricity grid connection is essential for the long term economic success of the Islands. In view of the current uncertainties around the date and generation capacity of large scale marine energy, there are questions about the timing and requirements for new transmission links. Therefore, securing regulatory approval for new transmission cables must be a priority of both the Scottish and UK Governments. Orkney’s renewable energy sector, although currently constrained by this lack of grid capacity, is now a major part of our economy, supporting jobs, providing community benefit and generating investment, and is key to national environmental ambitions and security of supply.