September 22, 2016

SIC planners in favour of Yell wind farm

Written by Neil Riddell | Shetland News | 21 September 2016 |

Shetland Islands Council’s planning department is recommending that consent should be given for a 17-turbine wind farm in the south east of Yell.

Because of the Beaw Field project’s size – it will have a generating capacity exceeding 50MW – it is classed as a “major development”, meaning the decision will ultimately be taken by the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit.

The SIC is a statutory consultee as the local planning authority. The deadline for a response is 5 October, with the planning board meeting on Tuesday (27 September) to discuss the plans, which were submitted by Peel Wind Farms (Yell) Ltd.

Beaw Field wind farm would be built over an area of 1,135 hectares in Burravoe, in the south of Yell, with the construction phase expected to last around two years.

The whole project hinges on a subsea interconnector cable being laid to connect Shetland to the UK power grid.

That would enable the Yell project and Viking Energy’s 103-turbine wind farm on the Shetland mainland to proceed – but, with the Tory government slashing subsidies for onshore wind, it is far from clear whether the cable will get the go-ahead.

Manchester-based Peel Energy took over the project when German developers Enertrag pulled out in 2014

There is strong support within the Yell community, with Peel Energy’s Bernadette Barry last year saying people “seem to be very much in favour of the project”.

The 17 turbines would have a maximum height of 145 metres and a network of 11km of access tracks would be required. Other associated infrastructure includes several watercourse crossings, an electrical substation, underground cabling, borrow pits and a 20m-high radio communications tower.

A report from planning officer Amy Melkevik states the developer’s wish to “make a positive contribution to the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources” and in doing so help combat climate change.

The developer looked at various layouts before settling on this proposal, enabling it to “accommodate exclusion zones for birds, habitats, the operation of Scatsta Airport, a scheduled ancient monument [Gossabrough Broch], dwelling houses and communication links”, the report states.

No objections have been made on the grounds of visual impact, although the council has not publicised the application since the consent process is being handled by the government’s energy consents unit.

To mitigate the potential for shadow flicker at nearby properties, the developer says it will shut down certain turbines when flicker is most likely to be created.

The RSPB is maintaining its objection on the grounds that measures to safeguard protected bird species “are not sufficient to mitigate all risk to these internationally important species”.

But Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the statutory consultee, has removed its objection, as it believes the mitigation measures “sufficiently address any issues regarding bird species”.

SEPA originally objected, citing a lack of information about the reuse and management of peat on the site, but subsequently withdrew its objection.

As previously reported, Scatsta Airport and oil company BP are objecting because of the potential operational impact on the airport. But the applicant points out that the development is outwith Scatsta’s own safeguarding area, and says it will not affect radar or flight procedures.

Delting Community Council has highlighted the visual impact for those living in Mossbank, and is asking whether residents there would get any part of the promised community benefit payments. Peel Energy last year estimated those payments would be worth £375,000 a year to the Yell community.

Shetland Biological Records Centre is not objecting, saying it is “encouraged” by plans to restore some of the habitat to blanket bog.

However, it says the quality of blanket bog within the site is “underplayed”, and suggests a “realistic” worst-case scenario for the project’s carbon payback has not been given.

Melkevik’s report concludes that the proposed development is compliant with the aims of the 2014 Shetland local development plan.

“It is considered that notwithstanding the objection from Scatsta Airport, BP and the RSPB, that the council should not raise objections to the proposal.

“This is because it is considered that the concerns raised by Scatsta Airport and BP can be addressed by condition.”

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