OPPONENTS of large wind farm developments in Shetland have said they are not surprised that permission to increase the turbine height for the planned Viking Energy development was granted by Scottish Ministers last week.
In a short statement Sustainable Shetland emphasised that in its view the long list of conditions attached to the variation of the already existing Viking wind farm consent could potentially undermine the profitability of the project.
The group warns that given the well-publicised difficulties of recruiting planning officers, Shetland Islands Council’s planning department was unlikely to have the resources to properly police the construction phase of the 103-turbine project.
Meanwhile, environmental pressure group Greenpeace has told Shetland News that “from a climate point of view” peat “was unlikely to be good locations” for building wind farms.
Last week, Scottish Ministers gave the developer permission to increase the size of the turbines it wishes to use for the 450 megawatt development from 145 metres to 155 metres.
Should Viking Energy win subsidy funding under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) mechanism and a £730 million subsea cable gets the final go-ahead, construction of the wind farm could begin as early as next year.
Chairman of Sustainable Shetland Frank Hay said: “It comes as no surprise that Scottish Ministers have approved the Viking Energy wind farm variation application, given the Scottish Government obsession with wind power as a major energy source, in spite of its obvious drawbacks.
“Once the SIC raised no objection it was always highly likely that it would be approved.”
He added: “As usual, little attention has been paid to the concerns of those local people who stand to be most affected by this.
“However, addressing the long list of conditions attached to the consent could prove to be very expensive for Viking Energy and reduce the potential profitability of the wind farm.
“It remains to be seen if the SIC planning department has the resources to police the construction phase of the wind farm effectively, if it gets to that stage. If not, who will pay for any extra resources required?
“Making a winning bid in the CfD auction remains a challenge for Viking given the limited budget available and the obvious competition from offshore projects in the auction.”
Emphasising that he could not comment on individual wind farm projects, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, Dr Doug Parr, said: “The UK urgently needs a lot more wind power, and the planning restrictions imposed by the government on onshore wind farms will need to be reviewed.
“However, the ultimate purpose of renewable energy – reducing carbon emissions – is undermined if a location is chosen where construction of the wind farm risks causing large-scale emissions.
“Forests and peat bogs are examples of areas where this is a significant risk, and are unlikely to be good locations from a climate point of view.
“The carbon accounting can be complicated, but it seems sensible that alternative locations, including offshore, should be looked at for developments where this risk occurs.”