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Confidence boost for island wind projects

| Written by Hans J Marter

There are 700MW of island wind projects waiting to be developed. Photo: Shetland News There are 700MW of island wind projects waiting to be developed. Photo: Shetland News WIND farm projects in the Scottish islands received a long awaited boost on Wednesday when the UK government announced that they will be eligible to apply for the next round of subsidies in 2019.

The news was enthusiastically welcomed by isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Viking Energy, one of the companies hoping to benefit from the announcement.

Those opposed to large wind farm projects in Shetland, however, said the announcement should be taken "with a very large pinch of salt".

Projects in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles were delayed when the government announced a consultation exercise on whether island wind projects should be included in the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme.

As a result, the planned 103-turbine Viking Energy project and many others were not able to bid in round two of the CfD competitive auction. The successful bidders of that round were announced last month.

On Thursday, the UK energy minister Richard Harrington said: "We want to go further creating thousands of good jobs and attracting billions of pounds worth of investment.

"That's why we are ensuring that remote island wind projects in Scotland, which have the potential to benefit the island communities directly, have access to the same funding opportunities as offshore wind in the next renewables auction round."

There are over 700MW of Scottish islands wind projects with current planning consents waiting to be developed.

Speaking ahead of the UK Government's Clean Growth Strategy, Harrington added: "Scotland already has a strong record in exploiting the potential of clean growth, with more than half of Scottish electricity consumption coming from renewable sources.

"We want to go further creating thousands of good jobs and attracting billions of pounds worth of investment.

"That's why we are ensuring that remote island wind projects in Scotland, which have the potential to benefit the island communities directly, have access to the same funding opportunities as offshore wind in the next renewables auction round."

The news was welcomed by isles MP Alistair Carmichael who has been campaigning in London on behalf of the local renewables industry for many years.

"While this package is two years later than many would have hoped, it is still a welcome development," the Lib Dem politician said.

"The Northern Isles are a thriving centre for renewable energy, but we have been hindered in developing this as an industry because of where we are.

"This announcement allows island-based businesses to compete on an even footing with their mainland counterparts."

Viking Energy Shetland's Head of Development, Aaron Priest, welcomed the UK Government's announcement saying:

"It remains vital for Shetland's economic future that we're 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.

"We very much welcome the Government taking positive action to deliver its manifesto commitment to 'support the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they will directly benefit local communities'.

We look forward to continued dialogue with both the UK and Scottish Governments to deliver the long lasting benefits of economic diversification to Shetland".

Meanwhile anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland said that participating in the CfD process did not necessary mean that island wind projects would be successful in the competitive auction.

The group's vice-chairman, James Mackenzie, said the group would continue to be the voice of those opposed to industrial scale wind farms in the isles.

"The Viking Energy project set sail, as it were, as long ago as 2003, but has since been grounded, due to a combination of incompetent or overly-zealous captains, and the shifting sands of time," he said.

"Now we are advised that, fourteen long years later, during which time over £10 million of Shetland's public funds have been committed to this project, there is a faint prospect of it's being realised on the horizon.

"One might be tempted to scoff and say 'Dream on', if this whole vanity affair hadn't caused so much agony and worry for so many individuals - rendered dispensable by the 'powers that be'."

The next round of CfD bidding is scheduled to take place in spring of 2019. The changes to the current Contract for Difference scheme still require EU state aid approval.

 

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