DESPITE Shetland having large natural gas reserves, and a huge 234-kilometre pipeline for exporting the stuff to the mainland, the people on the northern island chain have no grid to access the fuel themselves.

Instead, residents of Shetland’s 16 inhabited islands are forced to rely on oil or electricity to heat their homes and businesses. With skyrocketing bills and a focus on net zero emissions making these options less viable every year, other solutions have to be found.

The newly opened Kergord Hatchery Bookshop is one of those which has found an alternative.

The bookshop, its owner Sarah Taylor explains, is heated through a “ground-source” system.

A bore hole 55 metres deep penetrates the earth beneath the shop, using ambient heat from below ground to warm the building.

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“It works like a fridge but the other way around,” Taylor says. “It takes a small temperature grade in the earth and converts that into heat. It basically means you’re not drawing energy off the grid to source your heating... That’s not the most scientific explanation!”

And the ground-source heating isn’t the only eco-friendly step taken by the bookshop, which was built in an old trout hatchery between Lerwick and Walls on Mainland, Shetland’s largest island.

“It hasn’t been a working hatchery for seven or eight years now”, Taylor says.

“It just needed completely redoing. We used the shell of the building but everything else we had to completely redo. New windows, insulation, and we’ve put a living roof on it, a green roof. That and all the insulation and everything helps to make us more green, make us more sustainable.”

With the upcoming installation of a wind turbine, funded by the Scottish Government’s Island Communities Fund, the shop looks set to go almost entirely off-grid.

The National: Construction is underway on the Viking wind farm in ShetlandConstruction is underway on the Viking wind farm in Shetland

Shetland’s “excellent wind conditions” means it is an ideal place for the energy to be harvested, according to SSE Renewables - a firm currently engaged in building the 103-turbine Viking wind farm on the archipelago.

That wind farm claims it will power “almost half a million homes, including every home in Shetland” - a boon which means a shift away from oil-fired heating is being seen across the archipelago, especially as gas remains unavailable.

“The coldest windiest place in Britain doesn’t have access to the cheapest form of fuel. It’s a bit unfortunate but that’s just geography for you really,” says Frankie Valente, from Lerwick Boating Club.

Valente is the club’s commodore (“a glorified facilities manager”, she jokes) and has helped to secure a government grant to fund the installation of a new air-source heat pump - ending the building’s reliance on oil.

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Like the ground-source pump in the bookshop, the air-source pump uses outside heat, and compression and condensation of a refrigerant to create warmth.

And its benefits go beyond the slashing of overheads.

Valente explains: “The air-source heat pump, you can control it from your home. You can switch it on using your phone in order to get the place warmed up. Obviously the price of oil is going up and that’s a factor outside of our control. It’s a very small boating club run by members - so there’s no money for huge projects like that [without grants].

The National:

“For us personally it’s going to save us a huge amount of money. It’s going to make the heating more controllable, and hopefully our carbon footprint in the future will be better - not least because Shetland’s going to be a huge source of renewable wind energy at some stage.”

The “boating” club, which overlooks Lerwick harbour and has around 150 members, is involved with sailing, rowing, wild swimming, fishing and more. “It’s a social club that’s related to the sea,” Valente says.

Like Taylor, she’s hoping that the club’s prominence can help to “kick start” an interest in newer forms of heating.

Taylor said: “It’s an example for folk. People ask us about the ground-source heating and the refurbishment of the building, so to be able to talk about being completely, or pretty much off-grid, that’s a good thing.

“People are interested in it and it shows it’s possible and how to do it.”