The Orkney Islands have been home to, and centre of, renewable energy innovation for more than 60 years.
Orkney has a long standing heritage as a national location for testing modern wind turbine technology since the first deployment in the 1950s and over the last 20 years there has been a marked diversification in activity: starting with energy efficiency; then deploying wind turbines to decarbonise electricity; establishing a world leading marine energy test facility; introducing innovative heating, as well as green hydrogen, energy storage and balancing technologies; and latterly addressing decarbonisation of the whole energy system via the ReFLEX Orkney project.
Since 2013, Orkney has generated over 100% of its electricity demand from renewable power sources.
Throughout this amazing progression the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum (OREF) and its membership have encouraged and supported pioneering innovation, helping each other achieve major advances and breakthroughs.
The Orkney energy revolution has been led, inspired and supported by the local community. In Orkney there are more than 300 jobs related to renewables, more than 1000 individual energy generators and technology investors, and 12 large scale wind turbines. Around 10% of the homes in Orkney have microgeneration installed (compared to 2.8% UK average) providing clean energy and income locally.
Careful planning, the local supply chain and good stewardship by developers mean these developments have had minimal negative impact on the local environment or community but have had major benefits to the economy.
Supporting this process, OREF has been a forum where those interested in renewables can meet, discuss and debate issues, and find the most appropriate ways to move forward.
Today, the unique Orkney energy ecosystem is being used as a case study to help other communities and regions across the world. Thousands of visitors have come to Orkney over the years to learn from the pioneering energy R&D activities taking place, and Orkney based expertise and equipment has been exported all over the world to help facilitate, encourage, and inspire other communities to achieve their own sustainable energy solutions.
Statistics from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department of Transport show:
Whilst there is no shortage of renewable generation assets in Orkney, demand-side flexibility assets are only now developing, through pioneering pilot and local community scale activities. Therefore, the ReFLEX Orkney project will deliver an extensive new pool of flexible demand technologies at regional scale.