Developers have scaled back a major wind farm planned for Shetland after islanders raised concerns about the impact of the project.
The Viking Energy Partnership submitted plans last year to build 150 turbines on the Shetland mainland.
But a revised plan unveiled yesterday to be sent to the Scottish Government for approval includes 23 fewer turbines, a smaller area and a shorter carbon payback time.
Campaigners claimed that the development would cause too much damage to the island environment.
But Bill Manson, chairman of Viking, a partnership between Viking Energy and Scottish and Southern Energy, said they have responded to the views of local people.
“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.”
Mr Manson said the removal of 23 turbines will reduce the impact on residents, birds and archaeology.
He said the area disturbed by the development has been reduced by 197 acres to 257 acres, while two access junctions have also been removed, cutting the network of access roads by 8.7 miles to just over 62 miles.
The carbon payback period – the length of time it will take for the wind farm to compensate for carbon emissions resulting from its development – has been cut to less than a year.
Peter Peacock, a Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, welcomed the changes: “I am pleased that Viking Energy appear to have taken seriously concerns expressed and have taken a number of actions to reduce the impact of the proposals locally, while keeping the substantial economic benefits for Shetland.
“Taking out one in seven of the turbines, reducing the area covered, and removing key access routes are all significant. The new figures for the carbon payback period are very substantially clarified and improved.
“While those opposed to the principle of wind farms will never be satisfied, I hope there will be a recognition of the care taken by Viking to address concerns and win improvements in the scheme proposed and that more folk can now get behind the scheme and the long-term benefits it will bring to Shetland.”
Viking said the wind farm, costing an estimated £685 million, could be one of the world’s most productive and could produce up to 457 megawatts of renewable electricity.
The partnership says Shetland stands to gain £930m across the wind farm’s 25-year lifetime. This sum includes returns to Shetland Charitable Trust, which are projected to be an estimated £23m each year, as well as wages and rents to landlords and crofters.
The development is also expected to create 170 jobs during construction and a further 42 full-time posts and 23 support roles when built.
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