Orcadians have long known the potential of the energy around them, with the persistence and power of the wind, waves and tides. This abundance of energy has allowed Orkney to become a pioneer in renewables, paving the way for how we make and use electricity in the future.

Leading the world

Standing between the Atlantic and the North Sea, Orkney is home to some of the most energy-rich waters in Europe, some of the strongest winds, and a community that have embraced the potential of the islands with open arms.

Picture of a domestic scale tidal turbine at sunset
Domestic turbine in Orkney

Wind energy 

Orkney has pioneered new renewable technology, with the very first grid connected wind turbine tested here on Costa Head in the 1950s.  Today both large-scale wind trubines and microgeneration are booming on the islands.

Domestic scale renewable generators are now a common sight, with more than 760 small-scale wind turbines and 370 solar panels in the county. As a result, approximately 10% of the population are generating their own power and as a whole Orkney hosts 10% of the UK’s domestic wind turbines.

Orbital O2 tidal energy device (Credit Colin Keldie)
Orbital O2 tidal energy device (Credit Colin Keldie)

Marine energy 

Orkney’s outstanding wave and tidal resources made it a natural site for EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre, where new marine energy technologies are put through their paces in challenging wave and tidal conditions.

With more grid connected ocean energy devices tested in Orkney than at any other single site in the world, EMEC has put Orkney at the very forefront of marine energy technology worldwide.

By 2013, Orkney became a net exporter of electricity, producing 103% of its total electrical needs from renewable sources, and in 2020 this rose to 128%. This rapid rise in renewable energy devices exposed issues with the local grid system, specifically the export capacity. As renewable energy pioneers, Orkney has uncovered potential opportunities and challenges for the global energy transition, showcasing the lessons that can be learnt from island communities.

Innovative, enterprising and passionate about a sustainable future, Orkney is proud to be leading the global renewable energy charge.