Producing all its own energy is just the beginning, as the Eco Island Project sets out to make the small English island independent in food, water, fuel and waste.
The Isle of Wight could become a net energy exporter, if the Eco Island project runs to plan.
Eco Island is an attempt, community-led and bolstered by business, to build a resilient green economy on the Isle of Wight, with energy security at its heart.
The driving force behind the project is David Green, founder and CEO of the Eco Island Community Interest Company, which has already secured £200 million of private funding. Green’s aim is 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”.
The island currently draws 600GWh a year from the mainland, but Green believes it could be energy self-sufficient by 2020. A £25 million project to install photovoltaic panels on 3,500 social houses, and install over 500 air-source heat pumps, is already underway. Further plans include a waste-to-energy plant, and research into wind, tidal and geothermal has begun, with the ultimate goal of making the island a net energy exporter.
Eco Island CIC is planning to become a global centre for innovation in smart grid technology, working with IBM, Toshiba and others. Cable&Wireless Worldwide and Silver Spring Networks are working to link all domestic renewable installations, drawing on current communications infrastructure and wireless mesh networks.
Energy aside, Eco Island CIC plans to stimulate a green economy through a number of schemes. Islanders can already apply for the GreenBack discount card which will reward customers for buying from local, responsible businesses – with 65 to choose from so far. Research is also underway into low-carbon transport, including bikes, electric cars and hydrogen vans, and the CIC is working with Southern Water to improve water efficiency and supply. The list goes on. – Tom Forster