Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Letters / Silly question – obvious answer

Referring to Sustainable Shetland, Chris Bunyan asks (An explanation please; SN 13/1/14) “In what circumstances the organisation would support linking Shetland to the National Grid with a cable given that it says it has no fundamental objections to this happening?”

I’m not a member of Sustainable Shetland and I don’t speak for them or even, support all of their views, however, since they apparently have no intention of answering such a silly question and, wearying of Chris’s ‘Chinese water drip torture’, may I suggest the answer is rather obvious.

What follows is my own personal opinion, based on such understanding of the situation as I have managed to pick up from media reports along the way:

1. Sustainable Shetland object to industrial scale renewable energy projects coming to Shetland as they judge their likely impact to be damaging, both environmentally and to the health of people who spend protracted periods in the vicinity of wind farms.

2. Since such projects require a large capacity transmission cable to export energy to the national grid, Sustainable Shetland oppose such an installation.

3. Sustainable Shetland are in favour of small-scale renewable energy installations which, in order to exceed much more than the current, relatively insignificant, penetration of the local grid, would benefit from a cable connection to the mainland grid. This is needed to compensate for the unstable nature of the main renewable energy source, wind.

4. A cable to achieve this needs the capacity to supply, at most, the total island peak demand for electrical energy. It would need a capacity, therefore, in the absence of any conventional power source (excluding Sullom Voe) of, say, 50MW, NOT 450MW which would be essential for the Viking Energy project or even bigger if all the other industrial scale renewable energy fantasies are to be realised.

5. It follows that Sustainable Shetland are unlikely to oppose the installation of a cable of about 50 MW capacity.

There, that wasn’t so difficult after all, was it?

From my own point of view, however, it is extremely unwise to invest in a business, which depends on politicians to arrange subsidies to ensure its viability, and I would never invest a penny of my own money in such a venture.

Not only are mainland people going to have to pay the necessary subsidies of 100 percent over the cost of conventionally-generated electricity, they are going to have to pay the inflated ‘island strike price’ to cover the cost of connection charges by National Grid AND they or mainland taxpayers are going to have to pay for the installation of a submarine cable at a cost, reportedly, of around £1 billion to cater for a major wind farm or say (guess) about £200 million for a Sustainable Shetland zero carbon utopian alternative.

In my humble opinion – and I’m one of those who will be expected to pay for this fantasy – to expect other people, about a third of whom are currently defined as being in ‘fuel poverty’, to pay for such an egocentric indulgence, is deeply immoral.

It isn’t as if you have no alternative, Sullom Voe is on your doorstep, so if you want to live in that kind of Shetland you should be prepared to pay for your own fantasies, including renewable energy, cable/grid installations and grid connection charges – lock, stock and barrel!

John Tulloch