Helping it Happen on Fair Isle

The National Trust for Scotland (Trust) have worked in partnership with islanders on Fair Isle since the mid-1950s.

Many of these years saw the Trust working closely with Shetland grant providers and island-based contractors “Northmen” to secure monies and then improve and add to the housing stock. The fundamental aim was minimising the real risk of evacuation and helping keep it a viable place to live for the times. In effect early examples of necessity driven partnerships working to make things happen on this remote yet fantastic island.

Born out of this drive for security and modernisation, the 1980s saw the islanders and Trust developing and showcasing the country's first community wide renewable power system. This replaced the numerous old generators that were positioned throughout the island and in some cases brought power to houses for the first time. The project received a further boost in the 1990s when a second turbine was erected on island and the Trust set a trend by passing management of these assets to the community around this time. The Fair Isle Electricity Company was formed.

In recent years it has been clear, with the old turbines failing on an increasingly regular basis, that new impetus was required if the community were not to go back to importing extra diesel to run generators. Accordingly, the Fair Isle Electricity Company, underpinned by a new community development plan, began to investigate an upgrade and worked closely with the Trust and many other partners in order to make this happen. At the time of writing, in early July 2018, this extraordinary effort by the islanders involved in the Electricity Company sees contractors on the island with the works to erect 3 modern turbines, PV array and battery backup at an advanced stage.

The Trust's key role in facilitating this development was achieved by working closely with the community, their project manager and within the project stakeholder partnership throughout the conception and feasibility process. A key objective for the Trust was to ensure that conservation impact on the land was minimised and once this had been demonstrated the Trust finalised the drafting and signing of a new lease. This lease is set on favourable terms to reflect our mutual aspiration to build on successes of the past. Around this time, the Trust also agreed to make a significant grant payment towards the project which in turn played a key role in achieving the required match funding amongst the partners.

In tandem, the Trust, who have partnered with Shetland Island Council many times to help deliver island development objectives, met and recognised there was a new opportunity to add value to the renewable project by having properties assessed for energy efficiency measures. This saw the Trust work to help raise awareness of new grant opportunities amongst Fair isle residents - an effort that is on course to deliver 68 energy efficiency interventions across 23 of the island's residential properties. This is considered to be a good outcome and islanders and Trust will continue to work to develop existing partnerships and seek out new opportunities to help deliver on the challenges that the twenty first century will present.