European small islands federation - simskäla island

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Where small is beautiful and sustainable

The 35 permanent inhabitants of Simskäla island, one of the Åland islands between Sweden and Finland, have turned to renewables to become more sustainable. The island’s two main businesses now run on sustainable energy, and there are plans to convert the ferry that links the island with the mainland to low-carbon power.

Although Simskäla is connected to Åland’s grid, inhabitants want to move to a more sustainable energy system. By developing renewables, they can reduce the community’s carbon emissions while keeping the schools, transport, broadband and healthy economy the residents want.

Simskäla has two main energy-consuming businesses – a commercial vegetable greenhouse and an inn. The greenhouse is warmed by heat from the sea in a nearby bay using a system of pipes to extract energy from the water throughout the year. For every 1 kW used for pumping up heat from the sea, 4 kW of heat is produced for the greenhouse. The inn uses a geothermal system for heating, supplemented by a small wind turbine and solar cells.

The next step is to convert the ferry to and from the island to low-carbon energy. It operates on a cable and winch system, which the islanders plan to re-engineer with local government support.

Knowledge and input from other islands in the European Small Islands Federation, such as Eigg, Terschelling, Tilos and Samsö, have helped Simskäla achieve its goals. The project blends the best of the traditional with new, innovative initiatives to make the island more ecologically, economically and socially sustainable.