Plans for one Europe’s largest onshore wind farms to be built on Shetland have been considerably reduced to meet concerns of objectors.
The main consultees and many islanders objected last year when the original plans for a 150 turbine wind farm to be constructed on the hills in Shetland north and central mainland were published.
Viking Energy Partnership (VEP), a joint company owned by Scottish and Southern Energy and Shetland Charitable Trust, has spent a whole year addressing those concerns.
They submitted their final plan on Wednesday, which goes out to consultation for six weeks from 8 October.
VEP chairman Bill Manson said: “We have listened to what people have said and we have put a massive amount of time and effort into making changes to address concerns.
“The wind farm is now smaller, more compact and has a much shorter carbon payback period.”
Viking now propose erecting 127 turbines which will generate 457 megawatts, down by about 15 per cent from their last proposal. The area covered by the final development is less than half of the size of the original, at 104 hectares.
Despite the reduction in size, the company believes the £685 million project will still make as much money as the previous plan which would have cost £800 million to complete.
The decrease in development costs and interest charges, coupled with the ever increasing cost of energy, should still yield a return to the community owned Shetland Charitable Trust of £23 million a year.
Viking say the construction phase, due to last from 2013 to 2017, will employ 174 people, while the wind farm itself will employ 42 full time staff with a further 23 employees filling support roles.
The total income for the Shetland economy is conservatively estimated at £930 million across its prospective 25 year lifetime, generating £38 million a year for the islands in profits, rents, business and direct payments to affected communities, estimated at around £1 million a year.
The biggest change to the wind farm’s footprint is the removal of all eight turbines from the Collafirth area, one of four zones laid out in the original plan published on 20 May last year.
The number of turbines in Delting is down from 33 to 24 turbines, Kergord has one fewer at 46 and Nesting would see 57 turbines, five less then previously envisaged.
The company said they had taken out the turbines that would produce the least energy and have the most impact on habitat, birds and landscape.
The total construction area is down from 314 hectares to 232 hectares, with the final wind farm only taking up 104 hectares as opposed to 252 hectares in the original plan.
Access tracks will be converted into single track roads when the wind farm is built, and their total length is down by 14 kilometres to just over 100km, with two junctions removed at Setter, near Voe, and Newing, in Nesting.
The company said the most work had been done on bird surveys with a great deal of effort in mitigating the impact on the most rare species, red throated divers, whimbrel and merlin.
They say that their plans to improve the habitat around the wind farm will more than mitigate the impact of the turbines, and should lead to an increase in the most endangered bird populations.
They also promise a major archaeological heritage project in the area and an archaeological clerk of works will be employed full time on site, supported by professional field staff and specialists where required.
The biggest surprise however is Viking’s claim that they have reduced the carbon payback time from a worst case scenario of nearly 15 years to less than one year.
They say they have taken a detailed look at the area in question and discovered that two thirds of it is eroded and damaged peat that is already emitting carbon dioxide and harming the atmosphere, which they would reinstate.
The addendum was presented to the 23 trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust on Wednesday morning, with further presentations to the community groups supporting and objecting to the wind farm plan taking place in the afternoon.
The full addendum can be found at:
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