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Campaigners call for halt on wind farms

Photo: Shetland News

CAMPAIGN group Sustainable Shetland has called on councillors to impose a moratorium on all local wind farm developments and instead explore finding the “best environmentally sustainable” energy solutions in the isles.

Chairman Frank Hay made the call after Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee gave the green light to Peel Energy’s 12-turbine wind farm near Lerwick on Monday.

Sustainable Shetland, which objected to the plans, said it was “bitterly disappointed” by the decision.

Councillors voted six to two in favour of approving the plans with a slew of conditions to mitigate its impacts.

Hay said that “Shetland seems to be sleepwalking into a nightmare of oversize turbines dominating the landscape”.

Shetland’s local development plan states that proposals for renewable energy developments will be supported where it can be demonstrated that there are no “unacceptable impacts” on people, the natural and water environment, landscape, historic environment and the built environment and cultural heritage.

The proposed 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm has consent from the Scottish Government, as has Peel Energy’s planned 17-turbine Beaw Field development in Yell.

A larger wind farm in Yell from Energy Isles, which would feature 29 large turbines, is in the early stages of planning.

The Mossy Hill development came before the council’s planning committee as its total capacity would not exceed 50 megawatts, which is the threshold before it has to go in front of government ministers.

All of the proposed wind farms need an interconnector cable laid between Shetland and the Scottish mainland to allow the export of energy, which is dependent on Shetland winning government subsidies in the upcoming contracts for difference (CfD) auction.

Hay added that there were “compelling reasons” for rejecting the Mossy Hill application and he claimed the advice given by planning officials to councillors was “flawed”.

“It was very disappointing to see the opinions of local residents being discounted once again in favour of the, so-called, benefits of renewable energy,” he continued.

“There would be nothing ‘green’ about the construction of this. It remains to be seen if this can be economically viable given the long list of conditions that should be adhered to. It will also have to have a winning bid in the CfD auction which cannot be taken for granted.”

Hay also said that “decisions like this can only encourage more applications from ruthless wind developers whose main ambition is to make a profit rather than any real desire to ‘save the planet’.”

“If Mossy Hill gets built along with other wind farms which are in the pipeline what effect will this have on Shetland’s Geopark status?” he added.

“It is very doubtful if that would merit Geopark status being continued. Instead of rubber stamping every wind farm application that comes before them councillors should instigate a moratorium on all wind farm development until there is a proper investigation into finding the best environmentally sustainable energy solutions for Shetland.

“We fear that Shetland’s involvement with the wind industry is not going to end well, whatever happens.”

General Election - 12 December 2019