A "SIGNIFICANT milestone" has been reached in plans for a 600MW interconnector cable linking Shetland and the Scottish mainland after a 'final needs case' was made to energy regulator Ofgem.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) submitted a case today (5 October) for the 260km cable, which would allow large scale renewable projects like the planned Viking Energy wind farm to export electricity.
SSEN says there is now an opportunity to progress after the UK government previously confirmed that remote island onshore wind projects will be able to compete for subsidy in the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction in May 2019.
However, the cable is dependent on whether or not renewable developers will be successful in the CfD auction.
Viking Energy Shetland’s head of development and strategy Aaron Priest hailed the news and said its wind farm construction could begin in 2020.
The proposed cable would deliver a single 600MW subsea circuit from Kergord to Noss Head in Caithness, connecting into the Caithness-Moray transmission link which is currently under construction.
SSEN director of transmission Dave Gardner said: "Today marks a significant milestone in providing a transmission connection to Shetland.
"We believe our proposal represents a robust, economic case for reinforcement and provides the best possible opportunity to unlock Shetland's renewable potential.
"The submission marks an important first step in the process, however successful delivery will be dependent on sufficient volumes of renewable generation capacity securing a CfD contract to underpin the investment case, in addition to regulatory approval and relevant planning consents.
"We would like to thank our generation customers and wider stakeholders who have helped inform the development of the Needs Case and we now look forward to working constructively with Ofgem as they review our submission."
Priest added that Viking has "waited a long time to reach this significant milestone so it’s pleasing to see it happen today".
"A grid connection will allow Shetland to build a significant renewables industry to harness our world-class wind resource and bring clear economic, social and environmental benefits to the islands," he added.
"Today’s announcement is a welcome boost for Viking Energy as it gears up to bid for a CfD power contract next May. If successful in the CfD auction, wind farm construction work could begin in spring 2020, bringing jobs and work for Shetland businesses."
SSEN's Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission arm is also in the "process of assessing whether utilisation of the proposed transmission link to meet Shetland's future energy needs" would provide best value.
Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission is due to confirm findings in the coming months regarding Shetland's future energy needs.