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Three-week countdown for isles' downsized community windfarm  

The size of Shetland’s giant community windfarm has been cut back by 37 turbines to a network of 154 which will be unveiled in three weeks for all to see.

The figure was reached this week on completion of negotiations with the owners of the Vementry estate.

The map of proposed generator sites has changed significantly since last year with turbines removed around Voe, the south end of Dales Lees and from the hills west of the Kames, including several near Aith.

So far only the owners of one estate have rejected the chance to host wind turbines: the Tresta estate is owned by a number of crofters who could only agree to use of their hills if feeling was unanimous.

Meanwhile, Viking Energy has dismissed a claim by the new anti-windfarm group Sustainable Shetland that crofters with hill rights are turning against the project despite being set to share in compensation of over £1 million a year if the windfarm is a success.

As we went to press yesterday Viking Energy had met five groups of common grazings shareholders this week to discuss the annual payments they might stand to receive.

Following the first meeting, in Aith, Sustainable Shetland issued a press release to the local media stating: “Crofters reject Viking Energy”.

According to the protest group, crofters from the Burrastow estate who were at the meeting “appeared quite resolute in their opposition to the windfarm”, despite standing to gain from owner Henry Anderton’s agreement to host turbines on his hills.

The group said concern had been voiced about the amount of peat to be removed and the potential impact on lochs and burns and wildlife.

The group said another concern stated at the meeting was that “it would not be possible for sheep to graze safely, at least during the construction phase”.

Campaign spokesman Billy Fox said: “Sustainable Shetland fully supports the stance taken by these crofters in saying a resounding ‘No’ to Viking Energy plans.

“We invite other crofters, grazings committees, and crofting communities to follow the example of these West Side crofters.”

But Viking Energy project manager Aaron Priest dismissed the idea that there had been serious opposition to the windfarm. “There’s been no hostility at the four meetings I’ve been at.”

He was not at the Aith meeting but Viking Energy chairman Bill Manson was. He said the meetings had gone “perfectly smoothly”, including the one at Aith although one member of the audience, who is against the windfarm, had made “inflammatory statements” and insisted on discussing issues not related to the business of the evening.

Mr Priest urged islanders to be patient and wait to see the revised plan before making their judgments.

A leaflet is due to go out with The Shetland Times early next month with photo montages and a clear layout of the turbines.

Mr Priest said: “Folk will be able to make a more informed judgment about how it will look on the landscape at that point.”

By the end of May a variety of more sophisticated visual representations should be ready.

Meanwhile, a study by Glasgow Caledonian University for the Scottish government on the economic impact of windfarms has found that three-quarters of tourists felt windfarms had either a positive (39 per cent) or neutral (36 per cent) impact on the landscape.

The message the study gives the government is that it can pursue its target of generating at least half Scotland’s electricity from renewable energy by 2020 with only minimal impact on tourism.

However, the average tourist would pay up to 35 per cent more for a room with an unspoilt view than for one with a view of a windfarm.

The study concluded that if the tourism and renewable industries work together to ensure that “suitably sized windfarms are sensitively sited”, and parts of Scotland are protected from development, then their aims are not incompatible.

The findings were seized upon by the British Wind Energy Association, which represents the interests of the renewable industry. Chairman Adam Bruce said: “This is quite simply excellent news for the Scottish economy and environment. It shows that the purported adverse effect of windfarms on tourism is simply a myth. It also shows something that the BWEA has been saying all along: benefits of wind power outweigh the costs, by a very large margin.”

John Robertson

The Shetland Times

14 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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