comprises about 70 islands that lie 10 miles off the northernmost tip of mainland Scotland, between the North Sea and the Atlantic. The wind there blows almost continuously, and the islands have taken advantage of this resource to generate the electricity needed to power the islands. The wind also drives waves and the tides, which provide additional opportunities to generate renewable energy, making the Orkney Islands one of the rare places on earth that creates more energy than it needs every year, all from renewable sources. The Orkneys have been producing over 100 percent of their electricity for nearly a decade, and today produce approximately 120 percent of their total needs
. Sources include:
- Wind Energy: An experimental wooden turbine installed at Costa Head on the island of Mainland in 1951 was the first grid-connected device in the UK. This wind turbine was destroyed by a hurricane soon after installation, but it paved the way for Mainland's Burgar Hill wind farm, established in 1983. One of the 6 turbines in the wind farm became the first UK turbine to generate over 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2015. In addition to utility size turbines, there are also hundreds of privately owned micro turbines scattered throughout the islands.
- Wave and Tidal Energy: The consistent and powerful waves and tides are ideal for proof-testing devices intended to harness this energy. In 2003 the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) was established in the city of Stromness on the largest of the Orkney Islands. The aim of the EMEC was to become a world leader in the development of wave and tidal energy. To that end it has developed two test sites with a total of 13 grid-connected berths for wave energy devices and has hosted 32 different devices from 11 countries. See the Orbital O2 Tidal Turbine as a good recent (2021) example.
- Solar Energy: Althouigh sunshine is not overly abundant on Orkney, there are currently 373 solar installations on homes and businesses. One in 10 houses in Orkney possess either a wind turbine or solar panels.
Because of the excess power genrated by the various systems and devices and the limited interconnect capacity with the mainland, the Orkneys have been exploring creative ways to utilize the excess power. The Surf 'n'Turf
project gnerates hydrogen via an electrolyser, which has been installed at one of EMEC's tidal test sites. It produces the world's first tidal-powered hydrogen which can be stored, then converted back into electricity via fuel cell and used to power the inter island ferries. And the ReFLEX (Responsive Flexibility) Orkney project
will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind Virtual Energy System (VES) interlinking local electricity, transport, and heat networks into one controllable, overarching system. This will include up to 1,000 batteries and 600 electric vehicles with V2G (vehicle-to-grid) capability.