Secret Scotland

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Life on Muck – almost a modern electrical fable

Solar cell sun

It was fascinating to read the reality of life on the tiny island of Muck, which has just moved into the world of 24-hour mains electricity supply.

Previously, the islanders (numbering 38 at the time of writing) were limited to a schedule, determined by the fuel supply of the island’s diesel generators which first provided electricity in 1970, but could only provide power for 14 hours a day, from 11 am to 5 pm, and 11:30 pm to 7 :30 am. The population has fallen over the years, having peaked around 300 at the start of the 20th century.

This meant using candles or tilley lamps similar for lighting, missing the end of films, and problems with food stored in fridges and refrigerators, with the island’s tearoom having to organise things to make sure provisions were safely stored. The island’s generator was only rated at 10 kW, which meant that users had to arrange schedules for using appliances such as washing machines that drew large amounts of power when operating.

There’s a fair few outright lies being circulated by supporters of Donald Trump, posting comments after articles critical of the Dump to the effect that wind power doesn’t work, but Muck is benefiting from developments in this area (albeit I am not suggesting the island has suddenly grown a giant wind farm), and its new supply is built around a new installation combining six 5 kW wind turbines with a 30 kW solar panel installation.

Muck joins Eigg, where residents now get more than 90% of their electricity from hydro, solar and wind schemes, and micro hydro-electric schemes, wind turbines and photo-voltaic cells saw the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust named overall UK winner in the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy for 2011.

The new supply was made possible when Muck Community Enterprise Company received a grant of £978,840 last year,  to help introduce the system of wind turbines and solar panels.

The lack of a continuous electricity supply limited the opportunities for business and growth on the island, but the new supply is hoped to improve this, so the tearoom, hotel, and two B&Bs on the island should benefit from increased numbers of visitors who can also be better catered for.

Muck tearoom 2006

Tea Room area – © Dr Julian Paren via geograph

The selected pic actually shows the parking area for the Tea Room, which is not  actually visible, and lies just off to the left in this view. It’s worth noting that there are no cars on Muck, and visitors get around on bicycles, or by tractor. (Our thanks to the photographer.)

I have to admit to being a little intrigued by the mix of renewables as used on Muck: 5 kW of wind plus 30 kW of solar. Considering the usual image of weather conjured up by thoughts of Scottish islands, and having been on one or two myself, I’d have thought the lion’s share would have gone to wind, with solar acting as the backup.

It will be interesting to see if there is a later story, reporting a change, or if this initial division proves to have been correct.

See Muck switches to 24-hour power supply for first time

And Muck celebrates as it gets electricity 24 hours a day for first time | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

Also Muck gets 24hr electricity supply for first time – Heritage – Scotsman.com

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March 30, 2013 - Posted by | Civilian | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. £30,000 per householder is quite an investment. I hope it works out. I was sad to see two non-functional wind turbines on Fair Isle, so it may be that it is the reliability of solar panels that was the overriding consideration.

    It was good to see my image used to illustrate your report. I can correct your title. The tea room is not in the picture – it is off to the left – but with no cars on Muck, the road is the parking area for those who head to the tea shop on bike or tractor.

    Like

    Comment by Julian Paren | July 13, 2013


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