A group of crofters in Shetland have opposed plans to site wind turbines in their neighbourhood as part of a massive windfarm development in the isles.
The move comes shortly after one Shetland landowner has refused to have any windfarms sited on her land at all after being approached by the developers.
Meanwhile Viking Energy say they have reduced their original proposal for 168 turbines producing 600 megawatts, to 154 turbines pumping out 554MW in an area whose “footprint” has shrunk by one third.
The first public opposition to the Viking Energy windfarm has been slow to materialise with a credible campaign group only formally establishing itself at a meeting last night (Tuesday), four years after the Viking Energy project was initiated.
Yesterday the group Sustainable Shetland said around 20 crofters with sheep on the Aithsting Common Grazings “appeared to be quite resolute in their opposition to the wind farm”.
The crofters had met Viking project officer David Thomson and director Bill Manson at a private meeting at Aith public hall to discuss the compensation they could receive if the proposed 11 turbines are erected on their site.
Jim Nicolson, area assessment officer for the Crofters Commission and a Sustainable Shetland member, said that every crofter who spoke during the meeting was against the windfarm.
“The crofters who spoke were clearly opposed to the project going ahead in this area despite the offer of finance that would be available to them. Their concerns for the environment outweighed any financial provision that Viking Energy were offering,” Mr Nicolson said.
Landowner Henry Anderton, who owns the Burrastow Estate on which the Aithsting Common Grazings lies, said he supported wind energy as an alternative to nuclear power though he had reservations about the size of the Viking development.
While Mr Anderton is still discussing whether to accept Viking’s financial offer for leasing his land, neighbouring landowner Mary Houston has made her mind up.
When Cornwall company Atlantic Energy approached Mrs Houston to site two turbines on her land a decade ago she was all in favour, but she said Viking’s request for five huge 3.6MW turbines on the Tresta and Garden Estate was too big.
“It was the enormity of this that messed things up for me. Many decades ago I was very keen on wind power and I thought it would be splendid to have two turbines here, but it was the scale of the Viking project which made me rethink my earlier decision,” the octogenarian said.
Mr Thomson, of Viking Energy, said the loss of the turbines in Tresta was just one of the factors that had made the firm slim down their original plans.
Concerns expressed by the communities in Voe, Aith and Weisdale had made them site their proposed turbines further from the settlements, so they would either be completely hidden or at least a greater distance away.
Mr Thomson added that the overall size of the scheme had been reduced from around 60 to less than 40 square kilometres.
Meanwhile he welcomed the comments from the Aithsting crofters, saying the whole point of Monday night’s meeting had been to address any concerns people might have about the offer the company was making.
“The purpose of the meeting was to inform crofters on the estate of the potential returns and the potential implications. This is part of a very big process and people’s concerns are something we are always interested in,” he said.
Last night Viking representatives were meeting with crofters in Nesting and will have further meetings with other crofting committees over the next two weeks. The company is bringing Inverness crofting lawyer Derek Flynn to all the meetings to offer advice.
At the end of this month Viking intend to publish the final design for the windfarm which they want to develop in equal partnership with power giant Scottish & Southern Energy.
Public exhibitions are being held this month in Weisdale and Scalloway to show plans for the huge interconnector cable which could be brought ashore in Weisdale Voe to connect to a huge convertor station, which will have up to three 15 metre high buildings covering an area measuring 250 by 200 metres.
By Pete Bevington
12 March 2008
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