THE COMPANY planning to install an interconnector cable between Kergord and Caithness to enable the export of electricity met developers on Wednesday to help make its case to government.
According to lead project manager for Shetland Daryn Lucas, it is vital to gauge the exact planned potential for generation to make an accurate "needs case" for approval.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks will be making its bid in September, with Viking Wind Farm providing over 400MW of the planned 600MW capacity of the cable from Kergord to Noss Head near Wick, where it will link to another cable that crosses the Moray Firth.
Viking Energy, of which SSE is a partner, will only learn next autumn if its bid for a contract for difference (CfD) has been successful. But even if Viking does not go ahead it is not necessarily the end of the line for other providers.
According to Lucas they will almost certainly have to go back to the drawing board and re-consider their projects, for their share of the cost of the cable will inevitably be higher.
He said: "If it were to drop from a 600MW cable to a 200MW cable there would still be substantial costs involved because of the subsea element. You would have to start again and actually then you would be putting more costs on to the people who make up that notional 200.
"Would they be able to bear the costs without Viking being there? I suspect you would see a lot of the other developers re-evaluating their costs if Viking did not make it."
Lucas said that the meeting had given developers the chance to outline their problems, whether financial or red-tape, and thus gave SSE Networks the chance to help out with them.
He said that the cable would be a real turning point for renewables in Shetland. "It is the stepping stone to actually getting things moving. At the moment there is no way of exporting power that can be generated up here. You can see from the scale of the applications that are in from Viking and other developers the potential for it.
"It is the wave and tidal stuff as well - the potential is here to do it. It is that islands dilemma: it is expensive to put the transmission link in but once it is there it is that step up to allow developers to create schemes and create the interest to allow technology to move on.
"The purpose of today was to meet as many potential developers who might be interested in creating generation schemes that would inform our needs case to go to Ofgem.
"We know about the big guys who are contracted like Viking and Peel Energy, so we can give them an update on the project, and also to give the other generators out there the chance to inform us and that all forms our needs case that goes to Ofgem - to say this is the full generation picture on the islands.
"We will follow up on the contacts we made today and find out what stage people are at – how far on their projects are. And again that all adds to the needs case for a link to the mainland."
If Viking and SSE Networks win government backing it is planned to start work in Q2 2020 with the contract to hook up to the windfarm in March 2024.
The interconnector still needs permissions from Marine Scotland, the Crown Estate and a works licence from Shetland Islands Council. It plans to consult with the public during these applications.
Lucas said that the whole project would be re-tendered with SSE Networks looking at dealing with smaller suppliers in a bid to save money.
This served a two-fold purpose of letting Ofgem know they are getting value for money, and reducing the burden on renewable developers, who will share part of the cost of the cable
The project was estimated to cost around £750 million two years ago, but this should shrink. The cable will be buried under the seabed where possible but will be armoured with rocks or concrete where it is on bedrock.
It may be left as it lies in environmentally sensitive areas, but the plan has been to avoid them wherever possible, Lucas said.