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Viking the right thing for Shetland – Marchant

THE Viking Energy wind farm project, in Shetland, will go ahead regardless of the extent of community involvement, according to Ian Marchant, the chief executive of Scottish & Southern Energy, a 50 per cent partner in the 457 megawatt venture.

Mr Marchant was in Shetland at the end of last week to launch an ambitious and innovative £46 million programme that will, over time, allow the isles’ electricity network to accept more domestic and small scale renewable energy.

The chief executive took also time to speak about the controversial 127 turbine Viking Energy wind farm, the other project in Shetland the utility is involved in.

Viking Energy is a 50/50 partnership between SSE and Viking Energy Limited, which is made up of the Shetland Charitable Trust (90 per cent) and four 2.5 per cent share holdings by the directors of the Burradale wind farm.

Mr Marchant acknowledged that projects such as this one have the potential to fuel emotions which he described as “genuinely held but frequently the fear of the unknown”.

“What we generally find is that once the wind farm is built and the community benefits start flowing, these objections stop.

“We are at a difficult point in the Viking Energy project where strong feelings are being generated. I am convinced the wind farm is right thing for Shetland.

“We started out with a 600 megawatt wind farm, we reduced that to 540 megawatt, and we are now down to about 450 megawatt, because we have listened and we have taken away turbines.

“We feel that we have now got the balance right. The project is at the right scale and size to support the interconnector, to make the economics work and to maximize the wind resources in Shetland,” he said.

He continued saying that Shetland’s community involvement was a strong selling point and made key players in government and industry take notice.

But it was up to the community, he said, whether or not it wanted to take advantage of the arrangements in place. The success of the project itself was not dependent on the community angle and SSE could go it alone if it had to, Mr Marchant said.

“The project is a robust economically viable project. It will go ahead. The community ownership is a key plus from my point of view, but the project will go ahead, it does not stand or fall.

“And if the community says it does not want to put in its money, or just want to take a royalty, then that’s acceptable. It is not a problem.

“We would prefer if the community stayed on as a part owner, but it is up to community to decide what they want to do.

“I feel our partner in all this is the community in Shetland. We always have regarded this as a joint project between SSE and Shetland. The vehicle Shetland uses to do that is the choice of the community – it’s not my choice,” he said.

Referring to Shetland long standing involvement with the oil and gas industry, Mr Marchant added that from his prospective the local community was good and experienced in making the right decisions.

A planning consent application under section 36 of the electricity act has been made to Scottish Ministers and sits with officials at the Energy Consents Unit in Glasgow.

If a decision on whether to grant permission, call a public inquiry or refuse the application is not been made by the middle of March, it is unlikely that it will be reached until after the Scottish Parliament elections on 5 May.