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Westminster boost for Viking Energy

The view of the original Viking Energy wind farm proposal looking east towards Aith. Some of these turbines have now been removed. Image Viking EnergyA view of the planned Viking Energy wind farm from Aith.

AFTER years of lobbying, the UK government is finally throwing its weight behind plans for a large scale wind farm in Shetland with new proposals to help island developers.

This week Westminster published a consultation paper on giving special consideration for renewable energy developments in the Scottish islands.

The publication came as a senior representative of National Grid spent two days in Shetland discussing plans for a subsea interconnector with public agencies and renewable businesses.

In its consultation document the Department for Energy and Climate Change highlights the benefits that connecting island renewables to the UK electricity network would provide.

These include:

• the knowledge that would be gained from operating large wind turbines in windy locations to generate maximum electricity;
• expertise gained from using “multi-terminal undersea high-voltage direct current cabling”, which could help developing offshore wind farms; and
• infrastructure that would allow future wave and tidal schemes to be developed in the islands.

The government proposes to treat Scottish island renewables as a special case “distinct from onshore wind located elsewhere in the UK”, which should attract extra support from the state.

This would include protecting island wind farm developers such as Viking Energy from the direct competition for government support under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) regime, which will apply to other renewables projects coming on stream from 2017.

This comes on top of an enhanced strike price of £115 per megawatt hour (MWh) agreed by the UK and Scottish government under CfD to help with the extra costs facing island power generators.

A Baringa/TNEI study carried out recently showed the Scottish islands could make a major contribution to the UK’s renewable generation targets in the immediate and long term future.

“This major long term potential could not be delivered without the provision of support to enable the construction of the necessary transmission links in the short term,” the DECC report says.

Viking Energy development manager Aaron Priest, who has been part of a major lobbying effort on behalf of island generators, said the proposals were “extremely welcome”.

He said: “It is increasingly clear that both the UK and Scottish governments are fully committed to getting the islands connected, paving the way for Shetland to reap the benefits that the Viking project will bring.”

Priest added that Viking had “constructive talks” with National Grid (NG) on the proposed interconnector to the Scottish mainland.

NG’s transmission network service director Mike Calviou spent two days in the isles visiting representatives of the SIC, Shetland Charitable Trust, Viking Energy and the Energy Isles consortium of private business people who want to build a large wind farm in the north isles.

The consultation document Electricity Market Reform: Allocation of Contracts for Difference can be found here.

The outcome of an appeal in the Court of Session against the judicial review rejecting the planning consent granted to the Viking wind farm by the Scottish government is expected shortly.