Wind turbines might be built on the hill above the council dump to generate more heat for Lerwick’s successful district heating scheme.
The proposal for a 1.6 megawatt windfarm of two or three turbines could come before councillors next year for approval, according to district heating manager Neville Martin.
As well as heating town dwellers’ water and radiators the extra electricity could be used to charge batteries, run a heating and power plant and produce hydrogen which could be used to fuel council vehicles and possibly the town service bus.
Shetland Charitable Trust heard on Wednesday that the problem with the 10-year-old district heating scheme is its need for fresh heat sources if it is to expand much further because there is little more to tap from its current source, the waste-to-energy plant.
Without new sources, the scheme is having to slow down and will not expand beyond 2009. Currently it has 880 customers and a long waiting list.
Trust financial controller Jeff Goddard said: “The scheme is now in a little pause-for-thought stage.”
Trustee Addie Doull said one heat source should be Shetland’s agricultural waste which currently has to be sent to the landfill dump at considerable expense to the crofters.
Mr Martin said the waste-to-energy plant did not have the capacity to burn that waste but it was a possible heat source for the future along with substances like waste oils.
Ironically, the heat wasted by Lerwick Power Station right next door to the HQ of the company Sheap is many times more than that generated by the waste-to-energy plant. But no attempt has been made to link the scheme in to it because the power station would cease running if the big community windfarm is built.
Iris Hawkins repeated the call for other parts of Shetland to be able to benefit from the cheap electricity that Lerwegians gain from.
Sheap is already looking at small-scale heat-generating schemes which might one day be started up in places like Scalloway and Brae or on an even smaller scale for clusters of council houses near a school or other public buildings. Wind turbine systems like the one proposed for the dump could be one solution.
Other parts of the Highlands and Islands are beginning to harness the resources that are abundant in their areas. In Oban around 90 houses are heated from burning waste wood chips from local sawmills while in Wick a scheme takes heat from a distillery, backed up by burning forestry waste.
Lerwick’s district heating scheme started 10 years ago with the first customers connected in 1998.
By 2002, £10.5m of trust funds had been put in to the venture, including £2m in grants from Europe. At that stage the trustees agreed to write-off their £8.5m and begin afresh with new investments being made purely on the basis that they would earn a commercial return for the trust.
Since then, another £3.35m has been spent, generating profits which Mr Goddard said were above the required five per cent return.
In the year 2006/07 the operating profit was £219,429 against a target of £193,000.
Trustees agreed on Wednesday to increase their investment in the scheme this year from the projected £250,000 to £600,000 so that customers on the waiting list can be connected and a second giant boiler can be bought to create heat from burning oil to keep the system going during times when the waste-to-energy plant is out of action.
The trust had hoped the new boiler would be paid for from a government grant but the grant scheme, which has already brought in £1m for improvements to district heating, came to an unexpected end in February.
The grant scheme might also have helped pay for the proposed wind turbines.
Trust chairman Bill Manson said the heating scheme was moving in the right direction although now at a “snail-like pace”.
By John Robertson
21 September 2007
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