SNP - Tom Wills

Gremista turbines in doubt

Two wind turbines planned for the council's waste management facility at Gremista are in doubt - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

PLANS to erect two wind turbines at Shetland Islands Council’s waste management facility in Lerwick as part of the authority’s drive to cut its carbon footprint are in doubt as a result of an anticipated reduction in renewable subsidies from the UK government.

The local authority was recently granted planning permission to build two 6kw turbines, which will stand 15m tall, on the Gremista site.

However, estate operations manager Carl Symons said expected reductions in the UK government’s Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) scheme means that the Gremista turbines may not be financially viable and therefore shelved.

The turbines would provide electricity to the facility’s buildings, office and equipment as the council look to cut bills and increase its portfolio of renewables.

Last year the council introduced a five-year energy efficiency action plan, which aims to cut the amount of energy and water used by the local authority.

Symons said the turbines may never see the light of day, as reduced subsidy payments might make the investment unviable.

Under the FITs scheme, renewable projects receive a set payment per unit of electricity generated and also for any electricity exported into the grid.

At the moment the turbines in question would have an estimated payback time of ten years but with anticipated tariff cuts this could be even longer.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the money that the council once had, so whatever we do has to have a proven payback period before we would even consider implementing it,” Symons said.

“The big problem with turbines is the FITs and the tariffs – the way the UK government’s going at the moment, they won’t be cost effective or viable. They can’t exist without subsidy.

“With reviewed tariffs the payback period could be longer than the expected life of the turbine, and where that’s the case, the council wouldn’t be pursuing it as an option.”

Symons added that with increasingly poor weather, it remains to be seen if the turbines could even be erected before the tariff changes again at the end of March.

“The problem is that it’s taken us so long to get through the various processes, and now we find ourselves in the grip of winter, which isn’t a great time to erect wind turbines.

“I fear they may not be erected because we’re not going to have a sufficient weather window prior to 31 March 2017.”

The council’s carbon management plan is set to run until 2020 to fulfil the SIC’s obligations under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

It will explore a raft of ways in which the local authority can cut energy costs, as well as reduce demand on Lerwick’s district heating system.

Wind turbines is just one of a number of options, with photovoltaic systems and thermal storage also on the agenda.

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