A massive wind farm that will become the third biggest in Scotland was yesterday given the go-ahead by the Scottish Government.
The Viking project on the Shetland Islands will have 103 giant turbines that could provide electricity for 175,000 homes – despite Shetland only having a population of 22,000.
The approval could also see the construction of a £500million cable to plug the islands into the National Grid for the first time.
However, opponents warned of an ‘unimaginable’ impact on world-renowned landscape, with the £566million development set to dominate the moors and hills.
The turbines will be up to 475ft tall – more than twice the height of the Wallace Monument.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said rare species such as whimbrels and red throated divers could be at risk.
In February, more than 300 people marched through Lerwick to protest at the plans, while 2,500 residents signed a petition opposing the project.
But ministers gave the go-ahead, with the wind farm crucial to their election promise to generate 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs through renewables by 2020.
The wind farm is the 50th renewable energy project approved by ministers since May 2007.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing claimed the construction work would create 140 jobs.
He added: ‘The development makes the case for an interconnector to connect Shetland to the National Grid, paving the way for more exports and renewable energy opportunities, including marine energy developments.
‘The development includes an extensive habitat management plan which will restore peatland and offer benefits to a whole range of species and habitats.’
Viking Energy is an partnership between a company set up to represent the interests of the Shetland community and power giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).
The publicly-owned charitable trust estimates the farm will provide an annual income of £20million to support community projects, and 34 permanent jobs.
But conservation charity The John Muir Trust chief executive Stuart Brooks said: ‘The scale of impact on the world renowned natural landscape of these islands is unimaginable.
‘Our objection included major concerns over the impacts on peatland and wildlife and there is little indication that these have been adequately addressed. Restoration of peatlands is a cost-effective means of mitigating global warming – it makes little sense to be digging them up to build wind farms.’
Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said: ‘The developers and ministers should have gone much further to ensure any negative consequences would be minimised.’