IN THE latest of our series of questions posed to candidates in Thursday’s local government elections, we asked prospective councillors to state their position on renewable energy – and specifically whether they are in favour of large-scale onshore windfarms in Shetland.
Viking Energy’s hotly-disputed proposal to build a 103-turbine windfarm remains in limbo in the absence of any certainty over government subsidies and a subsea cable to the UK mainland.
In recent weeks Peel Energy has also announced plans for a 20-turbine windfarm in central Shetland, while a local consortium is also contemplating a large-scale windfarm in Unst and Yell. Again those developments are dependent on an interconnector cable to the National Grid.
We asked all 32 candidates: “Are you in favour of growing Shetland’s renewable energy sector, including large-scale onshore windfarms?”
Of the 24 respondents, the overwhelming majority were in favour of small-scale renewables, but several were opposed to the “industrial scale” of projects such as Viking Energy.
Malcolm Bell: “Yes provided the size of developments are proportionate. The Viking windfarm has already been consented by the Scottish Government and, whether we like it or not, will happen if the interconnector, a matter for the Westminster government, is installed.
“If the interconnector materialises we are likely to see further planned developments and these will require to meet the many environmental and planning conditions which would be imposed upon them. There would also require to be demonstrated a clear benefit to the community and impact on those living in the vicinity and impact on other industries like tourism, must be properly assessed and addressed.”
John Fraser: “Let’s look at this if and when an interconnector ever appears to become a potential reality and if a suitable strike price can be negotiated. Private ventures with no community benefit will never have my support. Any development must be sympathetic with other aspects of Shetland life.”
No responses received from Stephen Leask or Thomas Williamson.
Peter Campbell: “Until a decision is taken on an interconnector cable there can be no large scale developments of renewable energy. The level of subsidy will also influence the companies considering building windfarms. I have grave reservations about turning Shetland into an "offshore" windfarm.”
Frankie Valente: “I support growing Shetland's renewable energy sector – but I am not sure that windfarms on such a large scale is the way forward. I would prefer investment in wave/tidal energy. With the latest proposal for Mossy Hill, my feeling is that the only real beneficiaries of this project would be the landowners and energy companies.
“Unless the Shetland community as a whole was to achieve some serious financial benefit this would not outweigh the negative aspects such as the destruction of the countryside and digging up ancient peatbogs which also impact on the environment. In any case I think the government will drag its heels over the interconnector for so long that these projects are unlikely to happen for many years.”
Beatrice Wishart: “I'm in favour of growing the renewable energy sector, particularly wave and tidal renewables. The interconnector opens up the offshore area for development, as well as onshore. There could be a mix of renewable developments but there are legitimate concerns about the possibility of over-development onshore.”
No responses received from Cecil Smith or Amanda Westlake.
George Smith: “I would support renewable energy schemes where there is clear community support for it and where there is measurable community benefit.”
Robbie McGregor: “Windfarms should be subject to rigorous examination to ensure that they comply with the regulations in place. Local people should be consulted as part of the process. Any benefit from any project should be used for the benefit of the locality in which they are situated. Each project should be considered separately.”
No response received from Allison Duncan.
Ian Scott: “I am completely in favour of growing Shetland's renewable energy industry, but this is not to be confused with supporting these damned windfarms.
“An old an obsolete technology, hellish on the eyesight, but a good way for a handful of landowners to make a fortune. If the deal was, we build a windfarm discretely and get our electricity for nothing, that would be another matter, but as it stands, we will build windfarms and have the most expensive electricity in Europe. Thankfully as it turns out the prospects of an interconnector being financed by the Government is slim. There are very few government cost savings that I support but this will be one of them.”
Davie Sandison: “I am in favour of renewable energy and I recognise that we need to have an interconnector to the UK National Grid to maximise Shetland’s potential.”
Brian Nugent: “I am a member of Sustainable Shetland. I am not automatically against windfarms but will take each wind farm on its own merits, I will be investigating the Mossy Hill wind farm by going to the information meeting in Scalloway. I will be, particularly, interested in any benefits to the Shetland Central ward and Shetland as a whole.”
Julie Buchan: “While I do support renewable energy I don’t support the big scale wind farms that will only benefit some company outside Shetland, or foreign investors. Given our small land mass I think that Mossy Hill is a non-starter and Viking Energy is also far too big and will have a detrimental effect on Shetland, both environmentally and aesthetically. In the case of Viking Energy a far better resource of charitable trust money would be to set up small-scale community wind farms all over the isles to give Shetland people affordable electricity, we already pay way over the odds to SSE and the other big companies. Tidal power should also be pursued; Shetland has good strong tides that do not fluctuate like the wind. There are also plenty of other smaller projects that could be incorporated in new house builds, like geothermal and solar energy.”
Mark Burgess: “I am very much in favour of growing Shetland’s renewable energy sector, but not in any way that impacts negatively on our ecological, aural or visual amenities. Shetland is a small landmass. Building a power station in the heart of a village would seem absurd. “
Ryan Thomson: “I am absolutely in favour of growing Shetland’s renewable energy sector, however each individual proposal to do so must be taken into consideration on its own merits. Something as big as the Viking Energy windfarm proposal in my view must establish community support.
“There is no reason whatsoever why Shetland could not develop into a thriving renewable energy industry, we have an abundance of daylight during summer months, combined with wind, wave and tide, nothing should be dismissed.”
Duncan Simpson: “In principle I am in favour of renewable energy. However I believe it is far from clear if the Shetland public want large-scale onshore windfarms. I think controversial projects on the scale of Viking Energy, especially when receiving public money, should be voted on by the public.”
Lynsey Cunningham: “I am fully in favour of growing Shetland’s renewable sector, however I do not believe the proposed interconnecter will ever come to fruition. I am in favour of small-scale community wind projects and those that will truly bring benefit to Shetland. I believe that the proposed Viking windfarm is too large for Shetland. Although I am fully aware of the serious impact global warming is having on the world, and if faced with the decision on whether I would build a nuclear power plant or a series of batteries and wind turbines I would pick the windfarms.”
Alec Priest: “We should be considering reducing the current carbon footprint of the SIC, for example the 2013/14 SIC carbon management plan shows that the SIC ferries use 45,597,547kWh of the SIC’s total energy usage of 97,366,754kWh (approx. 47 per cent). Fixed links to Whalsay and Yell would reduce the SIC’s total energy usage by 30 per cent and reduce the carbon footprint by at least 8,289 tonnes of CO2 each year.”
No response received from Cecil Hughson.
Emma McDonald: “I personally favour small-scale renewable projects. However any large-scale projects must be made to benefit the local economy and with care and respect to the affected areas.”
Andrea Manson: “I would prefer to see hydrogen energy and hydro-generated schemes than windfarms as I believe that there is an inevitability of land slippage from disturbance to the hills.”
No responses received from Alastair Cooper or Isobel Johnson.
Catherine Hughson: “I’m in favour of developing energy from Shetland’s natural resources, particularly tidal power. Only the Scottish Government has the authority to approve large-scale onshore windfarms, SIC is merely a consultee in that process. As such SIC should agree a policy on these developments; I am a little concerned at the piecemeal nature of current windfarm proposals. Unless I am mistaken I think we need the interconnector before any further development would be viable.”
Ian Tinkler: “A progressive sector is fine, however not the Biomass/waste burners. More polluting and greenhouse gas output than coal! Windfarms are environmentally damaging, obsolete technology.”
Steven Coutts: “I am a supporter of developing the renewable energy sector. Renewable energy will play an important role in providing secure energy in the future and meeting our climate change commitments. However, renewable energy will only be a success if alongside generation we also address the issue of intermittent production and lack of storage.
“Shetland, with its local grid, provided a perfect scenario in which to research and develop these solutions. This can be done by installing generation of appropriate scale. It creates new high quality jobs and much cleaner electricity production.
“I am frustrated with the fixation on generation. We must develop storage solutions and better demand side management systems. Shetland had the opportunity to be a leader in this area, but unfortunately the drive for an interconnector seemed to take priority. I see little value in large-scale onshore windfarms if it does not result in carbon-intensive power stations being switched off.”
Gary Robinson: “Yes, I support renewable energy. Shetland’s carbon footprint is horrendous. Around £36 million-worth of oil is burned every year just to generate electricity in the isles and this is subsidised to the tune of around £30 million per annum. As the number of electric vehicles increases we mustn’t find ourselves in a position where these are being charged using fossil fuels. That would be perverse.
“We should have an ambitious target for renewable energy and we should consider each new renewable energy application on its own merits. Faroe is already approaching 50% of its demand being met from renewable sources. I believe the very mild winter that we’ve just had and the devastation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef provide further evidence of man-made climate change that must be addressed.
"I represented the views expressed to me by some of my constituents about the Viking Energy project being too big and I supported the objection suggested by planning officials. The project was reduced in size by about one third before the Scottish Government consented it.”
Theo Smith: “I am in favour of a healthy renewable energy sector in Shetland but not large scale onshore windfarms, or offshore come to that. I have never been convinced that industrial wind farming is the way forward. The visual impact together with the effect on neighbouring communities cannot be underestimated.
“I fear for people’s health and wellbeing and for the undoubted damage windfarms could do to the value of their properties. Shetland is in danger of being swamped by windfarms if an interconnector cable is laid and I am very disappointed that more has not been made of marine renewable energy, especially tidal.”
Debbie Nicolson: “I’m very much in favour of renewable energy but not on the scale of large industrial wind farms such as Viking Energy. I would be in favour of using community funds to support local schemes that had the full backing of the community. If we work towards making communities self-sustaining with regards to energy production it could significantly reduce fuel poverty, a major issue in Shetland.”