Project name: Foula Electricity Trust wind turbine upgrade
Technology: Wind turbines
Location: Foula, Shetland islands
CARES funding: CARES loan of £42,000
Date installed/operational: 27 September 2020


The isle of Foula is not connected to the Shetland distribution grid. It has generated its own power since the creation of the Foula Electricity Trust (FET) in 1982.

FET, a volunteer-led charity, operates one of seven off-grid electricity systems in Scotland. Foula’s electricity system includes of a mix of renewables (wind, hydro and solar) and diesel generation connected to a high voltage distribution grid.

Faced with a range of challenges in recent years, the community trust has worked extremely hard to secure renewable generation on the isle.

After the originally installed wind turbines failed in 2016, Foula became almost exclusively reliant on diesel. This is very expensive to use and costs to the community had become excessive.

In 2019, Foula became the first UK island to sign up to the EU Clean Islands Transition Pledge, committing to producing a decarbonisation plan that will help them develop a cleaner energy system.

Project aims and objectives

In August 2019, a low carbon generation repair project to cover the installation of three new 6kw turbine heads on the existing towers was undertaken. This meant that the Feed-In Tariff would still be able to be claimed because the towers were still in place.

By working closely with the wind turbine supplier company, the project’s technical and practical issues could be resolved and two of the turbine heads were installed in February 2020. Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the third and final turbine head was installed in September 2020.

Outcomes and achievements

FET did not have the means to replace the failed turbines without financial support from CARES. Without wind turbines, the trust would need to supply the majority of the island’s required power through diesel generation. This is not cost effective, environmentally friendly, or sustainable. The trust would also have been forced to charge a price per unit, which is unworkable for the residents and businesses on Foula.

The financial support from CARES has enabled FET to have three operational wind turbines producing energy for the island grid. This has reduced diesel usage by approximately one to two thirds over the most recent (and very windy) winter months, where power consumption on the island tends to be at its highest levels.

Lessons learned

Trust director Magnus Holbourn said:

“Getting the whole community engaged with a decarbonisation agenda, and understanding the importance to Foula of doing this, was really helpful. We were then able to communicate with the major stakeholders that this was fully supported by the community and a priority that has to be achieved. Consequently, the issues around planning that had arisen could be satisfactorily resolved allowing the project to progress.

“Our remote and inaccessible location means that good communication and planning must be adhered to in order to deliver the project. This requires suppliers to fully appreciate the realities of working on Foula and the challenges that this presents.”

Find out more about Foula Electricity Trust on YouTube.