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Energy / Larger wind turbines approved as subsidy auction gets under way

The height of the turbines for the development has been increased by 10 metres. Photo: Viking Energy

VIKING Energy has been given consent to increase the size of the turbines for its planned 103 turbine wind farm in the central mainland of Shetland as the all important auction for government subsidy gets under way.

In a decision letter dated 24 May, the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit said the variation of Viking’s existing planning consent from April 2012 would contribute to sustainable development as any environmental concerns could be addressed in way of mitigation.

The company, owned by utility giant SSE, the Shetland Charitable Trust and four local shareholders, will now be able to erect turbines with a tip height of up to 155 metres.

Viking Energy is hoping to be successful in its application for government subsidy under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) mechanism and is working towards starting construction of the large wind farm next year.

As the CfD auction process itself commences today (Wednesday), developers – including Viking Energy but also Peel Energy which has two wind farms consented in Shetland – can submit detailed applications for a share of £60 million of public money.

The UK Government hopes that this auction round will add a further six gigawatt of installed renewable capacity by 2023/24 and 2024/25.

Scottish islands based onshore wind projects are for the first time eligible to participate in the auction as remote island wind technology, but the category is not ringfenced and will have to compete for public money with all the other bids expected to be submitted until the deadline on 18 June.

A decision is expected to be announced later this year, likely to be in autumn.

Any Shetland based project is also still dependent on a final decision on a £710 million subsea cable that will have to be laid to connect the isles to the national grid.

Regulator Ofgem had earlier this year provisionally approved the 600MW cable but it will continue to consult generators, stakeholders and the public until the end of the month.

Viking Energy, meanwhile, described receiving permission to build larger turbines as “another big positive” for the company.

“In granting consent, ministers drew attention to the seriousness of climate change and reiterated their priority of cutting carbon emissions. Viking Energy looks forward to playing its part in facilitating the transition to a low carbon future in Shetland and across Scotland,” a company spokesman said.

“By installing a slightly larger turbines we will also be able to increase the amount of community benefit generated, making up to £2.2m available annually to the communities of Shetland for the lifetime of the wind farm.

“It is pleasing that ministers acknowledge the potential for the revised wind farm project to bring ‘substantial positive net economic benefits both to Shetland and Scotland’, which they consider important to an area seeking to diversify its economy.”

The 70-pages long planning decision letter from the Energy Consent Unit can be read here.

The proposed 12-turbine Mossy Hill wind farm on the outskirts of Lerwick, meanwhile, was formally given planning permission this week after its raft of conditions were finalised.

The Peel Energy development was given the thumbs up by Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee in April but councillors wanted more stringent conditions applied to mitigate issues like shadow flicker.