Viking opponents question viability of cable

Wind farm in ShetlandSustainable Shetland has been opposing large scale wind developments in Shetland for more than ten years. Photo: Shetland News

THE GROUP opposing Viking Energy and other large wind farm developments in Shetland has poured cold water on claims describing last week’s submission of a so-called ‘needs case’ for a 600 megawatt interconnector as a “significant milestone”.

Sustainable Shetland said that there was no guarantee that a sufficient number of Shetland-based projects would win government subsidies under the Contract for Difference (CfD) auction to enable the planned interconnector to be of “value for money for electricity consumers”.

Chairman of the group Frank Hay said a similar needs case had also been made for the Western Isles, meaning that remote island based projects would compete against each other and against offshore projects for a limited amount of government money.

On Friday, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) submitted its plans for the 260 kilometre long cable between Shetland and Caithness to energy regulator Ofgem (SSEN makes case for interconnector cable; SN, 05/10/2018).

Viking Energy’s head of development and strategy Aaron Priest said the move was a “welcome boost” to the project, which could begin construction in spring 2020 should it be successful in the next May’s CfD auction.

Sustainable Shetland said Shetland Charitable Trust, which has a 45 per cent stake in the project, continued to gamble with public money.

“A similar needs case has of course already been submitted for the Western Isles by SSEN,” Hay said.

“But when it comes to next year’s much-trumpeted auction, developers there will be in competition with those in Shetland – and with offshore wind developers, one of which may be one that is now fully owned by SSE – Seagreen Wind Energy Ltd.

“Such are the vagaries if not insanities of the market economy! And there will only be a limited amount of money available for this auction round.

“We hope that Ofgem will seriously consider the cost detriments against the benefits promoted by developers.

“Value for money for electricity consumers is highly doubtful in this case. The capital cost of the transmission link/inter-connector is likely to be vast.”

Hay also questioned whether Viking Energy would be allowed to participate in next year’s CfD auction if they had not achieved the planning consent variation for larger turbines by May 2019 (Increase planned for size of Viking turbines; SN, 26/09/2018).

He added: “Viking claim that an interconnector will bring ‘economic, social and environmental benefits to the islands’. Many people in Shetland would strongly disagree with this statement especially regarding the environment.”