Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga

Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga

by Laura Watts

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Overview

Making local energy futures, from marine energy to hydrogen fuel, at the edge of the world.

The islands of Orkney, off the northern coast of Scotland, are closer to the Arctic Circle than to London. Surrounded by fierce seas and shrouded by clouds and mist, the islands seem to mark the edge of the known world. And yet they are a center for energy technology innovation, from marine energy to hydrogen fuel networks, attracting the interest of venture capitalists and local communities. In this book, Laura Watts tells a story of making energy futures at the edge of the world.

Orkney, Watts tells us, has been making technology for six thousand years, from arrowheads and stone circles to wave and tide energy prototypes. Artifacts and traces of all the ages—Stone, Bronze, Iron, Viking, Silicon—are visible everywhere. The islanders turned to energy innovation when forced to contend with an energy infrastructure they had outgrown. Today, Orkney is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, established in 2003. There are about forty open-sea marine energy test facilities in the world, many of which draw on Orkney expertise. The islands generate more renewable energy than they use, are growing hydrogen fuel and electric car networks, and have hundreds of locally owned micro wind turbines and a decade-old smart grid. Mixing storytelling and ethnography, empiricism and lyricism, Watts tells an Orkney energy saga—an account of how the islands are creating their own low-carbon future in the face of the seemingly impossible. The Orkney Islands, Watts shows, are playing a long game, making energy futures for another six thousand years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262038898
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 01/15/2019
Series: Infrastructures
Pages: 440
Sales rank: 700,870
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Laura Watts is a poet, writer, ethnographer of futures, and Interdisciplinary Senior Lecturer in Energy and Society in the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh. As a science and technology studies scholar she has explored the effect of “edge” landscapes on how thefuture is imagined and made. She is coauthor of Ebban an' Flowan , the world's first poetic primer formarine renewable energy, and in 2017 shewon the International Cultural Innovation Prize with the ReconstrainedDesign Group for acommunity-built energy storage device designed fromscrap.

Table of Contents

Maps xi

Prologue 1

Arrival 21

Saga I Making Orkney Electrons 27

1 Announcement 27

2 The grid breaks down 29

3 Overflowing environmental resource 35

4 Come and visit us 41

5 Quadruple fuel poverty 50

6 Orkney electron economics 55

7 Thinking with electrons 63

8 Touching electrons on the beach 72

9 Taking a boat to the Eday test site 78

10 Use more power (drive an electric car) 87

11 Take the power off in another fuel 96

12 Electron archaeology 101

13 Living lab oratory 105

14 Weaving the network 115

15 Wandering monster 121

16 Energy walk 128

Saga II Making Energy Futures 135

1 Three energy futures 135

2 Haunted by time 141

3 Orkney time zone 146

4 Seeing like a stone circle 151

5 Seeing like a data point 157

6 Monuments make a community 163

7 Wind turbines make a community 169

8 The power of bruck 178

9 Wandering monster 189

10 Orkney Ltd. 194

11 Collaborative business models 200

12 Silence 204

13 Orkney is a place that acts through people 210

14 The force of bigsy 223

15 All else is the wind blowing 229

16 Wandering monster 235

17 Bruck sublime 244

Saga III Making Marine Energy 250

1 Knock knock 250

2 Wave farm watching 255

3 Fishers 260

4 Here be dragons 267

5 Mare nullius 272

6 Between the high and the low tide 280

7 Wandering monster 287

8 Mission control 300

9 Keep doing it-never give in 307

10 Birds in the machine 316

11 Cutting out letters 325

12 Infrastructure-at-sea 329

13 Dream of things that never were 342

14 Wandering monster 356

15 Selkie infrastructures 371

Epilogue 377

Acknowledgments 381

References 385

Index 411

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

An enormously creative, richly told story of how energy infrastructuresare being remade by everyday people in a remote place. Energy at theEnd of the World explores how rural places are constrained by, but notlimited to, the visions of infrastructure that emanate from urbancenters.

Phoebe Sengers , Associate Professor, Cornell University

Energy at the End of the World is exceptionally ambitious, forming an almost entirely new genre. The playful and skillful interweaving of empirical detail, mythological imagery, theoretical positioning, graphic novel elements, poetry, photo essays, and daring writing style throughout converge in a work that matches analytical depth with accessibility and attractiveness. The book isn't like a cool breeze through the publishing practices in the field, but more like an electrifying storm.

Teun Zuiderent-Jerak , Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Linköping University and VU University, Amsterdam

What new ways of being might renewables bring? Moving fluently among neolithic, neoliberal, and rhizomic imaginations, Laura Watts joins Orkney landscapes to everyday voices in this lyrical and insightful saga of worlds in flux. Elegy and analysis, ethnography and manifesto: the result is a rare glimpse of what can be achieved with committed transdisciplinary inspiration and rigor. This engaging book is a vital aid to thinking outside the box about the coming energy revolution.

Andrew Stirling , Professor of Science and Technology, University of Sussex

Energy at the End of the World is a fabulous scientific saga by a firmly grounded archaeologist of possible futures. It's a must-read poetic musing for researchers and designers engaged in the mundane practices of everyday future making in any nook of the world.

Pelle Ehn , design researcher and Professor Emeritus, Malmö University, Sweden

This is an enthralling introduction to the unique socioenvironment of Orkney and the making of energy on these islands. Drawing upon the traditional sagas, Watts uses a variety of storytelling techniques as a framework for her analysis. Her expertise at spinning a tale not only serves to entice the reader into her research, it also shows an essential continuity in the islanders' approach to energy generation from ancient times to the present day.

Pippa Goldschmidt , Writer-in-Residence at STIS, University of Edinburgh; author of TheFalling Sky and The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space ;coeditor of I Am Because You Are

Endorsement

This is an enthralling introduction to the unique socioenvironment of Orkney and the making of energy on these islands. Drawing upon the traditional sagas, Watts uses a variety of storytelling techniques as a framework for her analysis. Her expertise at spinning a tale not only serves to entice the reader into her research, it also shows an essential continuity in the islanders' approach to energy generation from ancient times to the present day.

Pippa Goldschmidt, Writer-in-Residence at STIS, University of Edinburgh; author of TheFalling Sky and The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space;coeditor of I Am Because You Are

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