Autonomy and control in Orkney : An inquiry into the social benefits of community wind energy

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Autonomy and control in Orkney : An inquiry into the social benefits of community wind energy

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Publication Chapter in Report
Title Autonomy and control in Orkney : An inquiry into the social benefits of community wind energy
Author Smedberg, Alicia ; Light, Ann
Editor Sumpf, Patrick ; Büscher, Christian
Date 2018
English abstract
The poet George MacKay Brown (1921-1996) lived most of his life in Orkney and dedicated his life’s work to the poetry he saw in an island shaped by its people and a people shaped by their island. In his book An Orkney Tapestry, originally published in 1969, he returns, time and again, to the analogy of the loom and the tapestry to describe the islands. As in the quote above, where he describes the “different estates [...] stitched together in a single garment”, he also refers to the islands as a tapestry woven by history, people and things. The Orkney with which we concern ourselves in this paper is still Brown’s Orkney; it is still a place of almost indefinable integrity and its history still has an undeniable presence. In this paper, we look at the growth and impact of socio-material power infrastructures, in and around Orkney, over the past thirty years, based on two visits to observe, solicit diverse perspectives upon and study the development of “community energy” (Smith et al., 2016; Seyfang et al., 2013). We use onshore wind turbines as an inquiry into how the tapestry of Orkney is interwoven with the Scottish mainland, the UK and Westminster. By tracing the development of renewable energy here, we offer the reader an account of local control and agency, in response to the SHAPE ENERGY ‘control’ challenge. In bringing a historical socio-technical inquiry to bear on energy production and local control, we draw attention, also, to the language of our account and, indeed, any account that deals with power supplies. The word ‘power’ comes to English from the Latin, via Old French, meaning ‘ability to act or do’. ‘Energy’, ‘agency’ and ‘control’ also relate to the means to perform actions and alter states. In this account, we juxtapose the ethereality of electricity, with its technical power to enact change through chemistry in ways determined by physics, with the equally immaterial flows of power that arise in the socio-technical sphere of erecting wind turbines, seeing the history of control of energy in Orkney as a meeting – and intertwining – of these technical and socio-technical factors, playing through the material infrastructure of cables, turbines, batteries and the grid.
Link https://shapeenergy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/SHAPE-ENERGY_D3.5_Research-design-challenge-collection-1.pdf .Icon
Publisher Shape Energy Research Design Challenge
Host/Issue Control, Change and Capacity-building in Energy Systems;
Language eng (iso)
Subject Wind energy
Science and Technology and Society (STS)
Design research
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/26460 Permalink to this page
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