May 29, 2008

Wind farm opponents hold public meeting

The group opposing plans to build a massive 550MW wind farm in Shetland is holding a second open meeting next week.

Sustainable Shetland said last night (Wednesday) that next Thursday’s meeting would be the second in a series of four intended to be hosted during the summer months.

The group, which now has more than 250 paying members, is challenging Viking Energy’s plans to develop a 154 turbines wind farm in the central mainland and export electricity via a to be built subsea cable to the urban centres of Scotland.

The £1 billion project is 50/50 partnership between Scottish & Southern Energy and Viking Energy Ltd, a company 90 per cent owned by the Shetland Charitable Trust. The remainder is owned by shareholders of Shetland’s five turbine windfarm at Burradale.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox said Thursday’s meeting was not intended to be “a head to head public debate”, but an open meeting of the group.

“Open means it is open to everybody. Anybody who wants to hear what we have to say is welcome to attend and ask questions, whether they support us or whether they are against us.”

The group argues that the proposed wind farm is the “wrong project” in the “wrong place” and is instead in favour of smaller projects without the need for Shetland to be connected to the national grid, as well as energy conservations measures.

Mr Fox continued saying that Sustainable Shetland has been “a catalyst for local debate” over recent months while developer Viking Energy was “disengaging” from debating their proposal publicly.

“Questions have been asked of them and they have not been answered. They are stonewalling a debate at the moment by continually repeating that this was an investigative proposal and that nothing has been decided. We feel that the public debate is in the doldrums,” he said.

He added Sustainable Shetland had considerably contributed to give public opinion a voice.

“We have analysed the correspondence that has been published in the Shetland News and the Shetland Times over the last year. Looking at individual correspondents – not individual letters – the ratio is 4 to 1 against the windfarm,” he said.

But his views were countered by councillor Allan Wishart, one of the three charitable trust nominated directors.

He said: “I am not aware at all that Viking Energy has disengaged itself from public debate and I believe that all the questions that have been asked have been answered as fully as the information we have at the moment allows. I am disappointed that Mr Fox interprets that as ‘stonewalling’.

“He himself has not answered the question concerning the long term sustainability of Shetland’s economy, employment, social care, transport and the standard of living and public services we have all come to enjoy and many take for granted, without finding an alternative source of income for the islands for the long term future.

“Without exploring how Shetland’s renewable energy resources can be harnessed and sold I feel that we would be acting most irresponsibly,” he said.

The Sustainable Shetland meeting is on 5 June at 7.30pm in the Tingwall Hall.

By Hans J Marter

The Shetland News

29 May 2008

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