A Cornish company is looking to put up to five wind turbines on a hill behind Tresta in the West Side.
Atlantic Energy has wanted to develop Dudd Hill since the late 1990s but did not have enough money to proceed.
Spokeswoman Charmaine Larke confirmed this week the company now had backers and hopes to complete its survey into birdlife in the area this summer and lodge a planning application this year.
The turbines would sit on top of the 169-metre Dudd Hill and part of the 211m South Midfield between Tresta and Weisdale. Parts of the same hills are earmarked for two of the most southerly of the 192 turbines proposed for the giant community-owned Viking Energy windfarm.
At this stage Ms Larke could not say what the electricity output for Atlantic Energy’s farm might be, or the exact number of turbines, because it depends on how much power the local grid can take.
She said: “It’s really early days yet and there’s nothing hard and fast I can tell anybody.”
Asked about the private investors, Ms Larke would only say at this stage they are “people who know windfarms” but she added that the company would like
to “investigate the options” for people in Shetland to invest in the Tresta venture.
She said: “It’s important that we open it up to local investment and local involvement as much as possible.”
Atlantic Energy held what Ms Larke described as a “very fruitful” private meeting recently in Bixter with landowners, crofting tenants and the grazings committee from the Tresta Estate area.
One local who was there said those who attended were generally receptive to what the company had to say, including its pledge of payments to the Tresta community as well as to the owners and users of the hills.
Another local, Robert Anderson, a shareholder in the hill, said: “I’m not just entirely happy about it because we don’t know enough about it yet. We really have to have a public meeting before it goes any further at all.”
But, he admitted: “If we had to have one of it I would rather have that than Viking.”
He fears that the scale of the proposed giant community Viking windfarm is far too big and the destruction of the hills and deep peat moor would be unacceptable.
Atlantic Energy is only looking to connect to the Shetland grid rather than exporting electricity south through any future interconnector cable.
The apparent technical limit of 20 per cent of the local grid’s power coming from wind generation has already becalmed other proposers of windfarms in Shetland because no cable means no guaranteed outlet for their product.
Relying on more than 20 per cent from wind carries risks because it is an intermittent power source. Currently there is no viable means of storing excess power for use in calm weather when the wind turbines stop so a major source of diesel-generated back-up has to be always available.
The problem has stymied Shetland Aerogenerators, which has a sister company, MD Developments, planning to site 10 more turbines at the Sheens of Breitoe between Quarff and Cunningsburgh, and the North Yell Development Council which wants up to five turbines between Gutcher and Cullivoe.
However, Atlantic Energy is currently briefing specialised consultants to examine the issue of island grids and their potential to take more wind power.
Ms Larke said: “The results of the grid work will determine what we do next.”
But she said there were always ways through a problem and there are good ideas to be gleaned from around the world.
She described possibilities for Shetland such as the remote-controlled powering of all its storage heaters, required almost year-round in our cold climate. They are currently charged at night by the diesel-burning Lerwick Power Station.
She said many issues needed to be looked at to combat climate change and the peaking and decline of oil as the fuel of choice, including better management of the demand for electricity.
Atlantic Energy secured a special concession from the former Scottish Office more than eight years ago Â so long ago that it was before the Scottish Parliament even opened its doors. The so-called Scottish renewables obligation (SRO) is a contract to encourage development of non-fossil fuel power and requires
the local electricity supplier, in Shetland’s case Scottish & Southern Energy, to buy the power at a higher price, which is subsidised by the government.
Atlantic also won an SRO to site a 1 megawatt (MW) farm at Hamari Field, between Cunningsburgh and Sandwick. But Ms Larke said that had now been discounted because the area was “too birdy”.
Shetland Aerogenerators also obtained an SRO in 1999 to operate Burgadale after seven years of applying and failing.
Atlantic Energy of Truro has been around since 1992 as a small company involved in renewable energy and consultancy.
It has not yet succeeded in establishing a windfarm, although Ms Larke said she had been involved in operational windfarms on four sites in Wales and Cornwall, totalling 50MW, before joining the company.
It has a 45MW windfarm planned for Argyll which she said is held up by connection problems with the whole Scottish electricity grid.
The Viking Energy windfarm concept was sparked off by another outside prospector who came in a few years ago to look at harnessing the wind. Wind Energy, backed by city investors, considered building a 1,000MW windfarm in the Central and West Mainland, causing local councillors and officials to realise that Shetland’s wind should make money for Shetland, not for others.
By John Robertson
4 May 2007
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