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World's First Entirely Renewable-Energy Place: Wind-Swept Scottish Island


Eigg, an island in Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. [Photo by Flickr user kevinzim]

Eigg, an island in Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. [Photo by Flickr user kevinzim]

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If you're looking to unplug from the grid, you might want to head to Eigg, a small island off the coast of Scotland.

Eigg intends to become the first island to rely entirely on renewable energy sources, Al Jazeera reports.

The island--part of the Hebrides archipelago--is in the process of creating a network of solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric plants to replace the individual diesel generators that previously served as its primary source of electricity.

Those generators were used to power individual homes; the island had no electricity grid until a few years ago.

Eigg Electric activated the island's first electric-utility grid in 2008. It cost around $2.6 million to implement, and was funded by the European Union and certain agencies of the U.K. government.

Eigg's position on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean is considered ideal for renewable energy, because of the more-extreme weather.

While frequent rainstorms may seem like a drawback, they can help the island's hydroelectric stations generate a surplus of power.

Excess power is stored in batteries, or routed to heaters in public buildings to help keep structures dry and at a pleasant temperature.

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

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However, electricity is also rationed to ensure a steady supply when the weather is less cooperative.

Residents are limited to 5 kilowatts at a time, while businesses can draw up to 10 kilowatts.

Each of those residents has a say in how the renewable-energy program is implemented.

Eigg was previously owned by a single landlord, but since 1997 it has been owned by the islanders themselves.

Anyone who has lived on Eigg for more than six months is made a member of the residents' committee, which is in charge of infrastructure.

So it would be wrong to say that Eigg's embrace of green technology did not have popular support.

Renewable energy currently accounts for 85 percent of Eigg's power needs, while the remaining 15 percent still comes from diesel generators.

[hat tip: Rick Feibusch]

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