Orkney detour


a body
with arms

a flower
with petals

a tower
with blades

On the drive across the northern plain of the Orcadian Mainland we pass a two-blade micro-turbine, and I’m reminded that in these islands, more than any other location in the U.K. – with the possible exception of the eco outpost at Scoraig, Wester Ross – there is a rich diversity of small-scale and domestic wind-turbine designs.

Every good journey should begin with a detour. Ours takes us off down The Peat Road, compressed moss and matter defining an earlier era of energy. We’re drawn down this lane by one of the new style of turbines – an inland cousin to the cluster of towers installed on the brow of Hammars Hill. For all their size, these new towers are sleek blooms. Typically pale grey, to my eye these ones are a shade darker than the usual RAL colour. Their colouration may be an adaptation to the dominant glettan, murr and rug of Orkney weathers.

The design features a nascelle that is more ovoid than the old box-top turbines. This flower-head accentuates the sense of the nascelles independence from the tower; such flexible engineering allows the blades to turn lightly, as if on a well oiled socket, sensitive to their purpose they constantly seeking out the apex of the wind.

Being more natural the form still doesn’t lessen the strangeness of the towers sheer scale.

From here we can see over patched silage fields and heather to the tops of the older turbines line up on the far slope of Burgar Hill.


Alistair Peebles:   Brae projects    |    blog

Laura Watts

E. W. Golding portrait is from New Scientist 

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