Power Outages As Smart Grid Upgrades Begin On Islands

St Mary's power generator

Residents and local businesses might be grumbling at the inconvenience caused by the series of rolling power cuts on the Islands, but Western Power says the work will give us one of the most advanced ‘smart grids’ in the country.

Yesterday the Council issued a statement warning residents that there could be disruption to Council services this week due to the outages but said Park House and Parade Flats will continue to be provided with electricity and heating from generators positioned outside the Town Hall while telephone lines would be operating as normal.

All essential services at the airport will also be functioning although the Five Islands school is expected to be closed on Thursday afternoon.

The planned outages are necessary so that new technology can be fitted to the electricity network, part of a project supported by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks fund.

Sharon Cross from Western Power told us the project involves the installation of monitoring and communications equipment at all 67 distribution substations on the islands and will allow much closer monitoring of power demands at any point in the system.

Scilly was chosen as a test site for the new technology along with a location in Wales.

The system is expected to help with the connection of small-scale electricity generation units, such as solar panels on resident’s roofs as well as larger schemes, such as planned PV farms on St Agnes and St Martin’s.

The project will also enable more effective control of power generators on St Mary’s and the off-islands if there is an outage on the cable from the mainland.

Smart grids have the potential to send signals to turn on power-hungry customer appliances at times when demand is low and power is cheaper.

It could offer a more intelligent way of saving money than the current cheap-rate Economy 7 system, which results in Scilly having its highest winter demands at around 1.00am in the morning. That’s a local quirk, because we don’t have mains gas for heating here.

Ritchie Christopher of Western Power says in Germany, some towns have free power at set times, such as in the afternoon, to encourage users to consume energy outside peak times.

Western Power has notified islanders by letter of the proposed shutdowns in their area, which will typically last for about 4 hours, although we have heard reports that some addresses are not registered to the right substation, meaning the times given for power cuts have been wrong.

Shutdowns will be taking place in St Mary’s from 14th-22nd November, including two days on Tresco to complete work there, on St Martin’s from 22nd-24th November, St Agnes 25th-29th November and Bryher 30th Nov–2nd December.

The Council has also issued a full list of affected services:

Tuesday 15th November – The TIC, Wesleyan Chapel and Town Hall will be closed until 1pm. The One Stop Shop will remain open to receive phone calls and take messages, but will not be dealing with payments. Access to Council data will also be affected – there will be no access to email or data at Carn Thomas, Porthmellon and the airport offices. Phone lines however will be operating normally.

Wednesday 16th November – Morning swimming sessions are cancelled at Normandy Pool.

Thursday 17th November – Carn Thomas and Porthmellon offices will be vacant and the staff re-located, staff can be contacted via the Town Hall. The gym lunchtime session is cancelled.

The St Mary’s base of the school will be shut on Thursday afternoon and parents will be notified of details from the school.

For details regarding the Council’s services during the power outage contact George Pearson, Community Relations Officer, on 01720 424323 or gpearson@scilly.gov.uk