When life throws lemons your way, just make some lemonade -- or, heck, start growing your own lemon trees and produce all the lemons you could ever want! This is what the residents of the small isle of Eigg, off Scotland's northwestern coast, did when the big energy conglomerates refused to service their remote locale. And now, Eigg stands above the rest as the world's first completely self-sustaining place on Earth, a prototype for sustainable living with renewable energy.
It all began back around 2008 when the European Union and various national bodies decided to fund the development of an energy infrastructure on Eigg, which previously had no steady source of electric power. Nearly all of the island's roughly 100 residents relied upon noisy diesel generators that were not only expensive to fuel but highly polluting -- the antithesis of renewable energy, as diesel for these many generators had to be shipped in from the mainland at high cost.
"It varies from year to year depending on weather conditions, but we are getting between 85 and 90 percent of our energy from renewables," stated Maggie Fyffe, who runs the financial office for "Eigg Electric" from her small bungalow, to Al Jazeera. "There are miles and miles of underground cable connecting every house to the grid."
The modest island, which measures a mere 12-square-miles in size, boasts somewhat crazy weather conditions that make obtaining renewable energy using existing technologies rather simple. Heavy winds and rain, balanced by plenty of days of intense sunlight, make capturing energy a breeze, which has greatly simplified the lives of those who live on Eigg.
"It's hard to imagine what it is like to live with no electricity or limited electricity," added Fyffe, whose time spent on the island since she moved there in the 1970s has given her a unique perspective. "If you had a generator you would only have it on for a few hours a day, so that meant you only had electricity for certain hours of the day."
"Now life is so much easier," she stated to Al Jazeera. "I've got a washing machine."
Self-sustaining energy grid has created new jobs, increased draw
Though slightly more expensive than comparable electric service on the mainland, the energy provided by Eigg Electric has significantly benefited the local economy. Not only are existing Eigg residents being given new opportunities as a result of the new energy, including new jobs, but the availability of electricity at all is attracting younger folks to the island who otherwise would never have agreed to live there.
"Part of their contract was that they had to teach people about installation and how it worked," stated Eddie Scott, one of the maintenance workers at Eigg Electric about the island's energy agreement, as quoted by Al Jazeera. "Now we can solve a lot of the problems ourselves. We have learned a lot as the years have gone by."
Eigg is self-sustaining in other ways as well, as it offers ownership shares of the island to every resident who lives there for six months out of the year or longer. Such folks are automatically granted a spot on the residents' committee, which besides having come up with the renewable energy plan is responsible for making other important decisions about the day-to-day operations of the island.
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