SHETLAND’S community councils, voluntary groups and small businesses could access millions of pounds through a community benefit fund, if the giant Viking Energy wind farm and other renewable schemes get off the ground.
Following last week’s decision to approve 103 Viking Energy turbines generating at least 370 megawatts, the newly formed Shetland Community Benefit Fund Co-operative (SCBFC) expects to earn almost £2 million a year.
Chairman Bobby Hunter points out the Scottish government is recommending a £5,000 per megawatt payout, an amount already being handed to the Forestry Commission and Highland Council.
With Viking Energy already being dubbed the world’s most productive wind farm based on figures produced by the five turbines at Burradale north of Lerwick, Mr Hunter thinks there is a strong basis to push for an even higher rate.
SCBFC was set up following a community consultation carried out 18 months ago. It has 18 directors, one representing each of the islands’ community councils.
They have agreed any income should be distributed throughout the isles, with more money going to the areas most affected due to their proximity to the turbines.
Avoiding charitable status will free the fund to invest, loan or donate to any
commercial, community or charitable cause it chooses.
The co-op is also planning to draw up its own development policies to provide guidance when it comes to making investment decisions.
Mr Hunter said he was confident Viking Energy and any other renewable developers who set themselves up in the isles would pay out.
“Wind farms have come to an agreement everywhere else in Scotland and this has the backing of every community council in Shetland, so I feel we have a body of opinion there that would be difficult to tell to go away,” he said.
“If Pelamis comes we will talk to them and to anyone else.”
He added that the co-op represented a wide range of views about the wind farm, which remains a controversial issue within the isles. Opposition campaign group Sustainable Shetland meet on Tuesday night to discuss their response to the government’s approval.
“From day one we have set out not to take a view either for or against the wind farm. We have had folk on the steering group opposed to it and in support of it and we have the same on the board.
“What we are saying is if there is a wind farm, we want to take advantage of it. If it doesn’t come we will go away.”
Following the approval of the Viking Energy scheme, SCBFC intend to approach the partnership to open talks as soon as possible.