This summer, Michael Westrom traveled to beautiful Orkney, Scotland for five weeks to study the local experience of governance that accompanies the transition to decentralized community renewable energy. Orkney is a collection of islands north of the mainland of Scotland that generates over 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, most of which comes from community-owned wind turbines. Mike’s findings will be written up for his MSc dissertation.
Here he tells us more about what he found:
For three of the five weeks, I lived on the small island of Shapinsay, home to about 300 residents. The Shapinsay Development Trust (SDT) is a community charity group that owns and manages a 900 kW wind turbine (see photos below of the turbine and SDT). Aside from earning revenue by exporting the electricity on to the grid, the SDT is a part of a 10 million Euro funded project to convert some of the electricity that would otherwise be curtailed (due to grid restraints) into a hydrogen fuel. Orkney Islands Council (OIC) has agreed to purchase the fuel to power a fleet of council vehicles, to heat the Shapinsay primary school, and eventually to power ferries, adding more revenue to the community.
I studied how both the revenue from the wind turbine benefits scheme and the partial ownership over the production and distribution over hydrogen fuel has empowered the SDT charity and changed local governance. Now the SDT charity, headed by a small group of residents, has a new and strong influence over island policy, provisioning of social resources, and even transport relative to the local council government, as related to their control over the renewable energy facility.