PLANS by a multinational company to build a large wind farm on the island of Yell have been greeted enthusiastically by local interests, while others warn it will lead to wind turbines covering the whole of Shetland.
Last week German-owned Enertrag UK approached the landowner and around 30 local crofters with plans to erect up to 18 turbines near Burravoe and Arisdale in the south of island.
The company is talking of using the same 145 metre high, 3.6MW turbines that have been proposed by Viking Energy, who are applying to build a 127 turbine wind farm on Shetland’s mainland by 2016.
Yell community council chairman Dan Thompson said he hoped Enertrag would “bring it on”, and landowner John Wilson said he favoured renewable developments on the isle.
However anti-Viking Energy campaigners have warned the Yell proposal is the start of a “windrush” that could lead to Shetland being covered in huge turbines.
Enertrag UK’s commercial director Neil Lindsay said the plans were at an early stage. Over the last three months the firm has held talks with Scottish Natural Heritage and bird charity RSPB about a neighbouring Site of Special Scientific Interest that contains rare red throated divers.
“The next step is to talk to the community council and ask them how they wish to engage with the rest of the community,” said Mr Lindsay, whose company’s motto is: “Your opinion is valuable, we want to hear from you.”
Enertrag has built up its business over the past 15 years, investing €1 billion to become one of the world’s biggest renewable energy firms employing more than 400 people. It owns, operates and manages wind farms in Europe, South America and the Far East from its base in Nechlin, Germany.
The UK branch has one wind farm in Norfolk, but has plans for three more in England. It has recently established an office in Dunfermline from where it is planning several ventures in Scotland.
“Enertrag don’t go into these projects lightly. If they make a commitment they see it through and if they come to Yell they will be there for 25 years,” Mr Lindsay said.
They were attracted by Shetland’s “fantastic wind resource” and said it made sense to use the same turbines as Viking Energy as they could share the same support infrastructure.
They would also plan to have a community benefit fund similar to the scheme being discussed by Viking Energy.
Mr Thompson said the matter had come up at Yell community council last week and he was extremely enthusiastic.
“I would say just bring them on. I think the benefits outweigh anything else. There will be benefits to people who have shares in the scattald and there will be a community benefit fund which has to be negotiated.
“It would be great if we could get a second bite of the cherry after the benefits that oil brought.”
Enertrag’s plans depend on the 457MW Viking Energy wind farm going ahead as this will trigger a 600MW interconnector cable being laid to export electricity to the Scottish mainland.
Anti-Viking Energy campaign group Sustainable Shetland believe the spare 143MW capacity on the cable will bring a wave of new wind farms to the islands that will cover the hills with turbines.
Chairman Billy Fox said: “You are looking at a free for all of wind farm development coming in. No sooner than Viking is built we could be looking at further development; it’s just a foot in the door.
“We should be developing renewables that are fit for Shetland, not turning Shetland into an offshore wind farm for exporting power.
“The Viking Energy wind farm is itself too big for Shetland and now on top of that we could get the equivalent of 39 Burradale wind farms. Are there going to be any parts of Shetland left uncovered?”