The campaign group opposed to the controversial Viking Energy windfarm plans to object to fresh plans for a 21-turbine project on the outskirts of Lerwick.
Peel Energy made the announcement last week which could see turbines measuring up to 145 metres appearing near the town and nearby areas under the Mossy Hill windfarm scheme.
However, members of Sustainable Shetland, which has stood in strong opposition to the 103-turbine Viking Energy project, are taking issue with the latest proposed scheme.
Vice-chairman James Mackenzie said a committee meeting was to be held on 10th May and it would be recommended to members to object to the project.
“It’s a significant, large-size windfarm of 21 turbines,” Mr MacKenzie said. “Interestingly its [capacity] is 49.9MW; which is just below the threshold at which you need to go to the Scottish government, so they are obviously trying to get this approved by the council.” Peel Energy has not given an exact location of the proposed turbines, although it is understood the windfarm will span hills between Lerwick, Gulberwick, Tingwall and Scalloway.
A map can be seen on the company’s website but when asked for more details by The Shetland Times this week, Peel Energy stated that it was waiting until public consultation events to provide the information.
Project manager Bernadette Barry, who spoke on radio about the proposal last week including confirming that Peel had obtained the land involved, did not return our calls.
The sessions are being held later this month to gather opinions and the energy firm said the final design will follow on the back of consultations and environmental and technical reports.
The meetings are planned for:
• Tuesday 25th April: Staney Hill Public Hall, 2pm to 7pm.
• Wednesday 26th April: Gulberwick Community Hall, 11am to 3pm; Scalloway Public Hall, 6pm to 8pm.
• Thursday 27th April: Tingwall Public Hall, 2pm to 7pm.
The organisers behind the Peel project claimed a community benefit scheme was also being proposed for its latest development.
Peel Energy has submitted a scoping report to Shetland Islands Council this week and a full planning application will be submitted to the SIC next year.
The company also has plans for a 17-turbine windfarm in Yell.
Like the Viking Energy project and the Yell plans, the new scheme depends on a subsea interconnector cable connecting Shetland to the national grid.
Mr Mackenzie was worried about the floodgates opening for windfarms and noted the 17-turbine development in Yell, and the Energy Isles scheme to provide a large-scale windfarm (150-200MW) in Yell and Unst.
“If Viking goes through, and these ones go through on the grounds it would be strengthening the case for development, it just opens the door for more development,” he said.
“There are already government reports both from the UK government both from the UK and Scottish government back in 2013/14 envisaging 1,200MW of power being exported from Shetland.
“That would mean another cable. You can imagine how many turbines that would mean scattered aross the island.”
A large number of turbines posed an environmental impact as well as an impact on communities, Mr Mackenzie said.
“It’s inevitable the turbines are going to be pretty close to dwellings,” he argued.
There was also an issue with the landscape, Mr Mackenzie said, and whether it could “support the structures without losing the integrity of Shetland’s uniqueness”.
Asked about the likelihood of an interconnector cable to connect with the mainland, Mr Mackenzie replied: “I really don’t know.”
Windfarm Farm Supporters Group member Tony Erwood said in his personal view the benefits for Shetland were likely to be limited.
“If Peel Energy think they can make a financial success (and that means making a profit) of this proposed venture, then Viking Energy certainly can with theirs,” he said.
“From what I have read, I don’t see how such a scheme can work (both financially and technically) without a connection to mainland UK, ie an inter-connector.
“Peel Energy are in the business of making money for Peel Energy, so the benefits for Shetland are likely to be very limited to land rent and some community payments.”
Mr Erwood stressed that his comments were his own personal views and not that of the group.
“The Wind Farm Supporters Group was established to support the Viking Energy wind farm because there was going to be a significant community ownership through the Charitable Trust and profits from operating the windfarm would flow back into the community through the charitable trust,” he explained.
“I don’t think that the Wind Farm Supporters Group would be supporting Peel Energy because it is not a community venture and the benefits to the community from what we know at the moment will be very limited.”
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael in November warned windfarm projects could grind to a halt because of a lack of commitment from the UK government.
That was after Westminster opted to launch a consultation about onshore projects in remote islands to see if they should be treated differently.
Mr Carmichael had been calling for a higher minimum “island strike price” for green energy generated in the isles, and was disappointed that there was a consultation on financial support, rather than a decision.
Viking Energy stated this week that it was still awaiting the outcome of the consultation.
Mr Mackenzie believed the government was saying it wanted “to be persuaded of the argument and it’s suitable and necessary to have the subsidy”.
With Brexit and a the issue of a possible second independence referendum, he suggested it could be “pretty low on the UK government agenda”.
Meanwhile talks were held with energy ministers in Stornoway this week to push the importance of island renewables.
Former SIC political leader Gary Robinson and Viking Energy head of development Aaron Priest were at the meeting. It was led by Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse and his UK counterpart Greg Clark.
The Scottish government stated before the meeting that discussions would focus on the UK government’s recent consultation which back-tracked on support for wind projects in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.
It argued that development of proposed major projects alone would trigger initial investment of £2.5 billion.
Mr Wheelhouse said: “Our position on island wind is both consistent and very clear – we must do all we can to enable our island communities to benefit from this substantial resource, large enough to meet five per cent of total UK electricity demand, provide significant boost to decarbonising our electricity supply, and would be worth up to £725 million to local economies.
“The planned projects on the Western and Shetland Isles would face extremely high locational transmission charges to provide electricity to the mainland. That is why an appropriate support mechanism is so important to help unlock very significant capital investment from the private sector and community-owned developers as well as, in turn, underpinning the investment case to National Grid for vital islands grid connections. Bringing this positive scenario about, as quickly as possible, will be at the heart of my discussions with Mr Clark.
“Responses to the UK government’s consultation show the case for supporting island wind projects is stronger than ever – our own submission was robust and credible. The projects under discussion would deliver tangible economic benefits to the communities involved while helping to ensure resilience in GB market electricity supplies. I look forward to making this positive case during our meeting with the Secretary of State.”
Speaking after Monday’s meeting of the Scottish Island Renewables Delivery Forum, Mr Priest said:“It’s vital for Shetland’s economic future that we are allowed the chance to diversify and develop a renewable energy industry.
“We have an endless resource of wind, wave and tide and the Shetland community should get to use it to generate new jobs and income. It’s becoming ever-more important given the current downturn.”
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