8th September, 2016
The island of Tiree is absolutely gorgeous. It's also tiny, and pretty remote. Only ten miles long and five miles wide, it sits on the most westerly point of the Inner Hebrides. And, with the changing weather dominating, one day is never the same as the next.
With businesses based on agriculture, fishing, and, more recently, tourism, Tiree has long relied on its land to stay afloat. So, in 2006, it seemed appropriate that the island looked to its natural resources once again to bring some much needed income to the island... say hello to Tilley the wind turbine.
The Wind Turbine With a Difference
Tilley isn't owned by a big energy company (clue: they don't usually name their turbines), but by the Tiree Community Development Trust (TCDT), a community organisation set up to make sure island life stays sustainable.
Tilley first started turning in March 2010, and since then, she's produced enough clean electricity to power 3650 homes for a whole year! And, since Tiree doesn't have 3650 homes (there are only 700 residents!), the surplus is sold to mainland Scotland via an undersea cable.
A Force to be Reckoned With
Wind certainly works for Tiree, but it's not just them. All over Scotland, wind power is becoming a real force to be reckoned with. Wind is the fasted growing type of renewable energy in Scotland, generating around a third of Scotland's electricity in 2015 - that's nearly seven times the amount wind generated back in 2006! And, on one windy Sunday in August, the whole country was powered by wind for the entire day... there was even a bit left over!
Onshore wind is also pretty popular in Scotland - in fact, a whopping 65% of us in the UK are big fans according to the government's polls. But possibly nowhere loves wind as much as the people of Tiree. Not only does Tilley provide them with clean, local electricity, but she also generates a community fund given out to local projects. There's almost no part of the island that Tilley hasn't touched.
The "Windfall fund" gives grants to local projects every year. And these projects, powered by Tilley, are what keep the community going in their remote surroundings.
In the words of Andy Wright from TDT, "We are an incredibly resilient community - living on an island we have to be. Tilley gives us the confidence and the power to make positive change here on Tiree."
And It's Not Just About Renewables...
For plenty of people, the Windfall fund has had a big impact on the way they live their lives. Back in 2013, government cuts almost meant an end for support for the island's elderly population... but the Windfall fund saved the day! Playing a key role in raising enough money to buy a minibus and hire support workers, there are now both lunch clubs and day trips to combat isolation, and a bus to drive folk to medical appointments and the shops.
On the mainland getting groceries isn't something you think about much. But when the only grocery shop on western central Tiree closed down, it became a bit of a problem. So the Windfall fund bought the empty store and rented it out to a local woman, who'd always dreamed of running a shop. Now, Bùth a’ Bhaile - the Village store - sells all the groceries locals need, and the rent goes right back to funding other community projects. Pretty cool huh?
In the last six years, the Windfall fund has given grants for all manner of things - from restoring the museum, to upgrading broadband, building a tourism app, and even for community sailing.
On Tiree, everyone loves Tilley. Even the cows and sheep graze right underneath the turbine - the minimal noise doesn't bother them at all.
Looking to the Future
The Scottish government are aiming to have the whole country 100% powered by renewables in just four years time, and wind is likely to make up the lion's share of that. So far, they're on track to hit the target, and with onshore wind projects like Tiree's Tilley turbine leading the way, the future looks pretty good.
And for the islanders, Tilley doesn't just mean fighting climate change with clean energy. She means a sustainable future and a more resilient community. Tilley... we salute you!
This It's Happening blog is funded by our pals over at 10:10
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