The 28 adults and eight children have been thrown together in a social experiment to see how they survive and co-operate away from the everyday aspects of modern life -- but under the watchful eye of the TV cameras. A few programs charting their early progress at building a community have proved so popular that more will be screened later this year in addition to those originally planned for 2001.
The island's wind turbine produces an average power output of 600 W which would normally be enough electricity for a typical three bedroom UK house. The deliberate undersizing is just one of the challenges for the castaways. It provides the main power for the most basic electricity needs, such as lighting for the living quarters and schoolhouse and an emergency satellite telephone system. In ideal wind conditions it also powers twin-tub washing machines and a UV water filter. All other electrical appliances are banned. Any excess power charges a large battery bank, and then is diverted to water heating. For the less windy days, a small hydro system provides an additional 800 W, and a diesel back-up system is on hand for emergency power.
The turbine's 6.5 metre mast hinges at the base, which allows the castaways to inspect and maintain the turbine themselves. This job falls to Dez Monks and Liz Cathrine -- known among the community as the "windy wizards" -- who have been trained in the management of the system. But the man responsible for designing the system and overseeing its installation is renewable energy consultant Hugh Piggott who is based at Scoraig in the north west of Scotland.