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Viking wind farm is set to shrink

Scatsta airport on Wednesday afternoon - Photo: Shetland News

THE SIZE of Shetland’s proposed £680 million Viking Energy wind farm is set to be slimmed down yet again due to concerns about aeroplane safety.

Developer Viking Energy has confirmed they are discussing the removal of some of the proposed turbines close to the oil industry airport at Scatsta.

Meanwhile negotiations with Scottish Natural Heritage over the potential impact of 127 huge turbines in central Shetland on the red-listed whimbrel appear to have stalled.

SNH want the removal of 17 turbines from the Lang Kames to reduce the visual impact of the development. The agency is also worried about the number of whimbrels that might be killed every year.

Viking Energy had already removed seven turbines near Scatsta airport from its original plan when it submitted a revised application for planning consent to Scottish ministers at the end of last year.

However it has emerged that more turbines will have to go as the airport is being upgraded.

Some sources suggest that all 22 proposed turbines north of Voe will have to be removed, but this has not been officially confirmed.

Aiport operator Serco did not respond to detailed questions from the Shetland News and also declined to allow airport manager John Thorne to be interviewed.

VE’s project co-ordinator Allan Wishart said that Scatsta airport had always objected to the wind farm because they did not know how the revised lay-out would affect their plans to upgrade.

Mr Wishart said: “We have been talking to Scatsta for quite some time, and are discussing the removal of some turbines.

“There have been reports done which we have seen. We understand that there are difficulties for Scatsta’s operation with the turbines in the vicinity. We have to acknowledge that.

“We haven’t agreed to the removal yet, but we understand the problems. We are in discussions to see what the best way around this is.”

Meanwhile, SNH said that their position in relation to the potential death toll of whimbrel has not changed despite repeated attempts by both sides to find a resolution.

A spokesman said: “We are in discussion with Viking to clarify the figures for the impacts of the proposal on whimbrel. Our current position therefore remains as set out in the November 2010 response letter.”

Mr Wishart said it was VE’s position that possibly far fewer than the current projection of 2.1 whimbrel would die every year as a result of operating the wind turbines.

“We still are trying to get SNH to accept the reports and all the verified figures. It still appears that two whimbrel continue to be the stumbling block for them.

“We continue talking but we have not come to a situation where they have said that they will completely withdraw their objection. I think it has now come to the stage where we have to say ‘right minister you have to make a decision on this’.”

The Viking Energy proposal initially included plans for 192 turbines eight years ago when two independent wind farms were on the table.

When Scottish & Southern Energy and Shetland Islands Council joined forces, then transferring the community share to Shetland Charitable Trust, the number was reduced to 150.

This figure came down to 127 when a revised submission was made following widespread objections to the original plan. It now appears that the final number could be less than 100.

Each turbine would have a generating capacity of 3.6 megawatts, measuring 145 metres from base to the tip of the blade at its highest point.