Isle of Wight aims for net energy exports by 2020 in EcoIsland sustainability project

The EcoIsland Partnership Community Interest Company (CIC) has just been launched as a Global Innovation Centre for Smart Grid technology, in an event at the Houses of Parliament in London. This shows how – working with global partners IBM and Toshiba – it plans to integrate the island’s future wind, tidal, geothermal, and solar power generation.

The Smart Grid initiative is one of the key ingredients in the Isle of Wight’s aim to become the ­first truly sustainable region in the UK, in powering the island’s future energy needs.

The EcoIsland project is a high-profile working example of UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ concept of how communities can take the initiative to improve life in their locality.

‘Our global launch is living proof of how the ‘Big Society’ concept is workable when a local community and private business combine their resources and expertise,’ says David Green, Chief Executive of the EcoIsland CIC. ‘The Isle of Wight community needs to act quickly to avert the possibility of blackouts from increased demands on the UK’s electricity generation capacity.’

Green continues: ‘We are looking to use the Island’s natural resources to make it self-suf­ficient in terms of energy, food, water, fuel, and waste – enabling the community to take its destiny back into its own hands.’

EcoIsland initiatives already under way include reducing energy bills for the Isle of Wight’s 142 000 residents by 50 percent through increased capture and use of solar, tidal, geothermal, and wind power and a creative tariff system. It will also cut landfi­ll to zero, and stop waste being transported off the island.

In addition, the project will fuel the green economy by creating jobs on the island – something of an employment black spot in the South East – through green tech investment, and setting up an Eco Centre and seat of learning for residents, visitors, and for schools across the country.

EcoIsland is working alongside some 70 partners to deliver key infrastructure objectives, including:

  • Cable&Wireless Worldwide and Silver Spring Networks are linking all the home installations and renewable technologies, using a combination of a wireless mesh and existing communications infrastructure.
  • Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is facilitating grid connections, and leading change with innovations including new tariffs.
  • ITM Power is providing energy storage and clean fuel production in the form of hydrogen for commercial and private vehicles. (It has recently operated a hydrogen vehicle/refuelling trial with Vestas Wind Systems, which has a facility on the island.)
  • Southern Water is supporting the aim to have a zero energy footprint through the development of renewable energy.

Since February EcoIsland has built a solid foundation on which to deliver a range of sustainability initiatives, including raising the ­first tranche of the £200 million (€234 million) in private funding required to achieve its goals.

EcoIsland has already delivered a £25 million project to install solar PV panels on 3500 social housing units and more than 500 air-source heat pumps. It is also evaluating zero-emission transport options including electric cars, bikes, hydrogen powered vans – building on ITM Power’s Hydrogen On Site Trial (HOST) – and green public transport.

ITM Power will supply hydrogen refuelling equipment, controlled by smart grid technology to optimize both renewable energy storage and the provision of hydrogen to both fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen internal combustion engine commercial vehicles. The intention is that the island will also be a showcase for advanced low-emission hydrogen vehicles being launched from 2013.

The project will also present an opportunity for ITM Power to showcase its domestic-scale HBox Solar and HFill products, which offer hydrogen generation directly from solar PV (even where there is no electricity grid) and home hydrogen refuelling.