SNP - Tom Wills

Viking Energy ask for more cash

WIND farm developer Viking Energy Limited has asked the Shetland Charitable Trust for a further £420,000 to bring their hugely controversial project to the planning stage.

Trustees will on Thursday discuss the funding request from the trust-owned company, after hearing that developing the project had taken three years longer than originally anticipated.

Anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland urged trustees not to release any further cash as islanders had already “clearly stated” that they did not want the large wind farm.

In September 2007, SCT bought a 90 per cent share in the Viking Energy Limited (VEL) from Shetland islands Council and agreed to set up a £3 million investment budget.

VEL and Scottish and Southern Energy are equal partners in the Viking Energy Partnership (VEP), the company behind the plans to build a massive 127 turbine wind farm on moorland in the north and central mainland of Shetland.

A revised planning application under Section 36 of the Electricity Act was submitted to Scottish ministers at end of last year.

Scottish Natural Heritage is the only statutory consultee objecting to the project on grounds of ornithology and visual impact. The government’s energy consents unit has also receive more than 2,700 objections from islanders and 1,100 letters of support for the wind farm

The project could earn as much as £23 million per annum for the charitable trust, Viking Energy has calculated.

In his report, the trust’s financial controller Jeff Goddard said of the £3 million set aside in September 2007, £2 million is being used to meet half the cost of operating Viking Energy Partnership until 31 March 2012.

A further £1.4 million had been used on wages and other internal costs at the Viking office in Lerwick up until the end of March 2011.

He then goes on to propose a £200,000 budget for VEL for the current financial year plus a further £200,000 as contingency, making a total of £3.8 million of funding. With its 90 per cent share in VEL, the charitable trust will have to provide a total £3.42 million.

Mr Goddard said that VEL were hopeful that a determination of the project by Scottish ministers would be achieved this year.

He added: “The project has spent much longer than originally anticipated in the planning consent process and it is now likely to be 2012 before trustees will have enough information to be able to decide whether or not to proceed to construct and operate the wind farm.

“The additional time and effort has mainly been required to react to the significant concerns raised following the original consent application in 2009.”

Kevin Learmonth, acting chairman of Sustainable Shetland, said on Monday night: “Trustees should not release a penny more for Viking. The people of Shetland clearly don’t want it, as evidenced by the responses to the energy consents unit.

“Viking Energy have been unable to deliver their project on time and on budget. At every single step of this project, they have grossly underestimated the cost and time it will take to get there.”

By-Election 2019 - Meet the candidates