THEY are amongst the most windswept of all Scottish islands and are home to some of the most important neolithic sites in the world.

Now the Orkney Islands have also become a world leader in green energy and have just been awarded a major international prize that celebrates sustainable communities.

The islands will now receive €100,000 (£87,900) after winning the first EU RESPonsible Island Prize, funded by Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.

Following evaluation by an international panel of independent experts, the European Commission awarded third prize to Orkney, pipped to the post by the Danish islands of Bornholm and Samsø.

The award was launched in 2019 by the European Commission to discover and reward European islands who were making real steps towards building proper sustainable communities.

It focuses on recognising achievements in local renewable energy production for electricity, heating, cooling and transport.

Orkney was awarded a prize due to the percentage of renewable electricity produced by innovative energy technologies locally, environmental and socioeconomic sustainability, community involvement and how easy it would to replicate its model elsewhere in the world.

The islands have been at the centre of, renewable energy innovation for more than 60 years, with ground-breaking wind test sites first being trialled in the 1950s.

Since 2013, Orkney has generated more than 100 per cent of its electricity demand from renewable power sources and has been led and supported by the local community. In Orkney there are 300 jobs related to renewables, more than 700 individual energy generators and technology investors, and 12 large scale wind turbines.

Around 10% of the homes in Orkney have microgeneration installed compared to the UK average of 2.8%.

Gareth Davies, co-chairman of OREF, said: “Orkney’s journey towards a more sustainable energy future has always been shaped and strongly supported by European influence.

“The success that has been achieved since has well and truly been led from within Orkney, albeit with major support from others. Over the last 15 years

Orkney has become very successful at participating in EU research and collaboration programmes relating to sustainable energy. In particular, Orkney has been recognised as a leader in marine energy matters and the application of green hydrogen.

“The large number of communities, organisations and companies working together has become an important axis of collaboration and friendship for Orkney covering almost all parts of Europe. Many European citizens have visited Orkney, and a significant number European students have come here to study and ended up settling here, enriching the local cultural mix as well as making important contributions to the overall sustainable energy effort.”