THE SCOTTISH government’s decision on Wednesday to approve the Viking Energy wind farm in Shetland heralds a new era of development for the islands, transforming the local environment and economy.
The government has approved a scaled down 370 megawatt wind farm that will include 103 turbines, after 24 were removed following objections from the operators of the oil airport at Scatsta.
The approval will trigger the building of a £500 million interconnector cable that will plug Shetland into the national electricity grid for the first time, opening the door for further renewable developments in the isles.
The government claims the wind farm will bring £30 million a year into the islands, however campaigners argue it will blight the landscape with oversized turbines and pose more of a threat than an opportunity.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing granted consent for Scotland’s third largest wind farm at 10am on Wednesday, saying it will generate enough power for more than 175,000 homes, 16 times the number of households in Shetland.
The £566 million joint venture between Scottish & Southern Energy and Shetland Charitable Trust will be the largest community owned wind farm in Europe, employing 140 people over the five year construction phase.
The publicly-owned charitable trust estimates the wind farm will provide an annual income of £20 million to support community projects, and 34 permanent jobs.
Scottish ministers have said they expect local people to be given priority when it comes to employment and awarding contracts.
The original application in 2009 was for 150 turbines, but this was scaled down to 127 following objections from most of the statutory consultees.
Approval for the 103 turbines means that northern Delting will be free of turbines to protect oil flights in and out of Scatsta airport.
Mr Ewing said: “The development will create jobs and bring income, and makes the case for an interconnector to connect Shetland for the first time to the National Grid – paving the way for more exports and further renewable energy opportunities for the islands, including community projects and marine energy developments.
“The development includes an extensive habitat management plan covering around 12,800 acres, which will restore peatland and offer benefits to a whole range of species and habitats.”
He said Viking would help Scotland meet its target of generating all of Scotland’s power from renewables by 2020, including 500MW generated from community and locally owned projects.
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