Back to Scoraig

Finally, it was time for me to return to Scoraig to check up on the data monitoring equipment we had installed back in April. A busy summer meant that this visit was long overdue and it felt good to be back on Scoraig.

“The gubbins”

Our first turbine, Lawrence Glass’ machine, was installed on a really exposed site on the far south-western tip of the peninsula – ideal for performance testing. It had received a lot of high wind speeds in the last four months and if anything, we actually had too much data! Here’s the curve we produced for this machine:

Lawrence Glass’ 1.8m wind turbine as measured form April-September 2012

The second turbine, John & Debbie’s over in Achmore, was unfortunately not doing so well. There are a lot of trees around and the turbulence they induce has meant that we cannot use the majority of the data. In addition to this, the tower is bent above the top guys, causing the furling behaviour of the machine to be quite dependant on the wind direction. The power curve below shows the data sorted by wind direction in 10 degree intervals and its clear to see that it furls much sooner in some wind directions than others. Hugh made an attempt to straighten the tower, but it wasn’t as easy as we thought as straightening it in one plane actually made it worse in the other!

Hugh will hopefully work his magic on John & Debbie’s tower over the next week or so and we will continue logging there for the next few months. We’re all done at Lawrence’s place though, so we moved the met mast and data-logger over to Aggie’s turbine, which also has a nice, exposed site so we should expect some solid data to come through from here over the next few months.

Hugh wiring up the data logger into its new home at Aggie’s wind turbine.

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Scraggy Scoraig

Scoraig is not your usual British community; it is not even your usual Highlands community. In fact, living on Scoriag is fundamentally different to life almost everywhere else in the UK. Scoraig was almost completely abandoned by the traditional crofting families who used to live here. It has been re-settled over the last 50 years by those who have woken up to the unsustainability of modern living and decided to take the plunge and live away from it all on one of the most remote corners of the British Isles. There is no connection to the National Grid, nor the water mains and neither are there any roads connecting it to the rest of the UK (access is by boat across Little Loch Broom and there are no scheduled ferries). As a result, the people of Scoraig need to obtain the majority of their own food, water and energy from the peninsula itself.

The transformation of the inhabited parts of Scoraig over the last half a century has changed what was a barren, isolated and windswept peninsula into a barren, isolated and windswept peninsula with series of sheltered, green and hospitable enclaves. Hugh’s house is in the centre of the largest of these enclaves on the southwest of the peninsula and is surrounded by luscious gardens and beautiful vistas down the loch towards the foreboding Scottish Highlands. The house is warm, comfortable and equipped with all the conveniences of modern living. They drink the rainwater that falls on the roof (there’s a lot of it in Northwest Scotland), eat the fish from the sea, the animals from the fields and the vegetables from the garden (supplemented by Tesco as and when necessary) and generate their own energy from a combination of wind and solar (with the occasional boost from a diesel generator). This transformation was made possible by the hard work and adoption of sensible, sustainable practices by Hugh, his family and the other members of the community. The relationship between the wind and the trees is the best example of this transformation as it was the wind that made Scoraig such an inhospitable place for the original crofters over 50 years ago, whipping across the peninsula from the Atlantic Ocean and scouring the landscape down to the heather. Although some trees and bushes existed when the crofters first arrived almost 200 years ago, they were swiftly cut down and used for firewood or construction. When the newcomers arrived in the sixties and seventies, they planted new trees and when they eventually took root they provided not only firewood and materials for building, but also shelter for crops to grow and for people to live in comfort. Today, wind turbines are placed strategically above or away from the trees to harness this powerful source of energy and generate clean, renewable energy for Scoraig’s inhabitants.

Hugh has a degree in mathematics from Cambridge University and other Scoraig residents were quantity surveyors or researchers in their previous lives. It therefore comes as no surprise that the solutions that these highly educated free-thinkers have come up with to improve their standards of living without damaging the environment in this remote corner of the UK are just as useful for remote communities in developing countries. The experience gained by living with the technology they have developed during every single day of the year has been invaluable in ironing out any design flaws and ensuring that the product evolved into something that adequately met their needs. Hugh has lived on the electricity produced by his wind turbines for over 30 years and as a direct result of this, the machines that he has developed are truly appropriate for local manufacture in rural areas and are now providing electricity to thousands of others around the world.