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April 18, 2012

Energy in short supply

By most standards 25kw is not a lot of electricity – a few watts short of three boiling kettles – but somehow the ten families living on the Isle of Muck got by, albeit with a finely tuned sense of who gets to use how much energy and when. But when the island’s main generator broke down, the community were left with a mere 10kw generator between them. Dark days indeed. Until the award letter from the Lottery landed on the island.


Scotsman ,17th April 2012

ROUND-the-clock electricity is to come to a remote island, where its 38 residents currently ration their use of power over just nine hours a day.

The ten families on Muck, in the Inner Hebrides, are celebrating winning almost £1 million in Lottery funding yesterday.

Having struggled on sharing the power from a 10KiloWatt generator – with islanders having to give each other slots to use washing machines – the cash boost will enable them to install renewable energy schemes for all-day electricity.

And delighted residents now hope that having 24-hour power will help attract more families to the island.

Mark Johnson, of Muck Community Enterprise, which was given the £978,840 grant from the Lottery, said: “This will make a huge difference. To have 24-hour power will enable the community to thrive and will hopefully attract more people to the island and enhance the population of Muck and the primary school roll.”

The enterprise company will use the funding to install six wind turbines and a bank of solar battery cells.

They hope to be supplying round-the clock power to all the homes by October.

Mr Johnson, who moved to the island with partner Molly and four-year-old daughter Kitty three years ago, said: “We have been working off a generator which only allows us nine hours of power a day.

“We have electricity running from 8am to 11am and 5pm to 11pm each day.

“This means we currently work a shift system for when we operate washing machines.

“We did have a 25KW generator to share around the island, but the main one blew a gasket and so we are on a stand-by 10KW one, which is a tiny amount of power.

“A power shower operates at about 8-10KW, while a kettle, toaster and washing machine take up the same power.

“So we as an island have to manage our power use very carefully. It takes a lot of organisation and thought.

“We only have nine hours of electricity a day, so there is not much flexibility.

“It means my fridge only runs for nine hours a day and I can’t use the internet and send e-mails during the day. Having 24-hour electricity will make everything easier for people to ineract with everyone else.

“It is also the wee things, like when someone is ill at night then you can have light.”

Mr Johnson lived in Musselburgh and worked in financial services in Edinburgh before his move to the island, where he is a woodworker currently making bookcases for the community library. 

The 36-year-old, who also works part-time on Calmac ferries and as a builder, made the move to the island for “a better life for my family”.

He added: “The Isle of Muck community was absolutely delighted to hear of the award from the Big Lottery Fund.

“It is difficult to express how much this means to us.

“This award will allow us to have a continuous electricity supply using clean, sustainable, renewable sources for the great benefit of the community and the environment. 

“It will hugely change our lives for the better and allow our population to stabilise and grow, safeguarding the community on Muck for years to come. 

“We’d sincerely like to thank the Big Lottery Fund for this investment in our future.”

Big Lottery Fund Scotland chairwoman Maureen McGinn, said: “Thanks to Lottery Funding, Muck islanders will soon have access to electricity 24 hours a day.

“The community hopes that a constant electricity supply will help attract further economic development, creating jobs and securing the future of the people and families who live there.”


ONE of the Small Isles, along with Eigg, Rum and Canna, the Isle of Muck is just two miles long.

Blessed with fertile farmland, the island is still in private ownership, belonging to Lawrence MacEwan, who lives and farms on the island.

Until 2005, visitors sometimes had to wade across the beach from the ferry, but a new pier was built at Port Mor which allowed the Caledonian Brayne vessel the Loch Nevis to bring passengers to the island.

Visitors are banned from bringing cars on to the island, but Muck is popular with those touring by yacht.