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Seaweed firm welcomes tariff ruling

A PIONEERING Shetland seaweed business has welcomed news that the new wind turbine at the centre of their expansion plans will be eligible for the government’s new feed in tariff (FiT).

Margaret and Michael Blance, of Böd Ayre Products, have spent £83,000 on a 20 kilowatt wind turbine to provide under floor heating in a new drying room where they intend to produce edible seaweed.

However the couple were told that because they had received money for the development under the Scottish government’s rural development programme (SRDP) they would not be eligible for the upper rate of 24p per kw hour.

They wrote to Shetland MSP Tavish Scott who told them on Tuesday that the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change had finally published its ruling on the issue.

The ruling states that the upper limit FiT of 24p will be granted to anyone who does not gain more than 200,000 euros over three years from a combination of grants, low interest loans and the FiT.

Mr Scott advised people affected by the ruling to check with energy regulator Ofgem before making a final decision on their project, but expressed confidence that the ruling would help most people who had received SRDP funding towards small wind turbines in Shetland.

“This therefore seems to be good news for people wanting to harness Shetland’s wind with a small wind turbine and good news for contractors wanting to supply and erect them,” he said.

Mrs Blance said she was “kind of chuffed”, but said she would remain sceptical until she had contacted Ofgem.

“I am hoping it is going to be a positive result, but we have had so many knock backs that you end up being wary until you see it in writing,” she said.

At the end of next month Böd Ayre Products hope to be selling a new range of edible seaweeds dried in their new factory using the new turbine, which they hope to be operational shortly.

The company started researching their business 10 years ago and is currently involved in a research programme into potential health applications of seaweed.

Meanwhile northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael he would continue to make the case for people who had adopted renewable energy systems before July 2009 to be given access to the preferential tariff rates.

“Government should be encouraging people in Orkney and Shetland and elsewhere to make the greatest possible use of our natural resources,” he said.

“We have always spoken about getting the widest possible range of people involved in renewable energy. This was one of the most obvious ways of encouraging this.”