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Energy / Viking outlines steps in wind farm construction

Public displays on the proposed Viking Wind Farm at Whiteness and Voe on Wednesday

The location of the main compound alongside the A970.

ONLY a handful of people were at Whiteness and Weisdale hall at a morning exhibition by Viking Energy where three large construction compounds that will shortly be going for planning permission were outlined.

The largest of these, on the east side of the A970, near Sand Water, will cover an area of around six hectares. When construction is concluded in 2024, it is planned to reinstate this compound, plus the other two at the Scar Quilse, south of Voe, and at the Scord of Tresta, which will be alongside the access track to turbines between Aith and Weisdale. These smaller compounds will be about four hectares in area.

Plans for a fourth compound at the Halfway House at Sand Water were dropped.

All three proposed compounds are close to main roads with fast moving traffic. Viking Energy is proposing appropriate signage and traffic separation measures to minimise road hazards.

Archaeological and ecological clerks of works have been going through the compound sites with a “fine tooth comb” prior to the applications being lodged, according to Viking.

One of the visitors, chairman of Tingwall, Whiteness and Weisdale Community Council, Andrew Archer said: “Our community council has already opposed the wind farm on the basis that it would do too much damage to Shetland’s landscape.

“It is obviously good that Viking are keeping people informed, but on the other hand the community council’s view would still be that it would be a sad day if it goes ahead.

“It is interesting to see the details of the compounds but there is nothing particularly concerning about the compounds themselves. It is the wind turbines that will do a lot more visual damage.

“The idea that it could be taken away is obviously a good thing – obviously better to have something that could be taken away than a nuclear power station.”

Tingwall Whiteness and Weisdale Community Council chairman Andrew Archer. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

The community council still has to take a view on the planning application for the compounds, but “realistically” as “all the decisions about Viking are with the Scottish Government, there is not an awful lot that the community council can do about this,” Archer added.

The newly formed Viking Community Liaison Group will meet later this month to hear the views of the four community councils within whose areas the wind farm falls.

There will be representation from the crofting common grazings within the area. The group is also intended to hear the concerns of those affected by the construction of the farm and its associated road network.

The council has already approved a 2km access road for a 600MW electricity converter station at Upper Kergord to be built by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (Shet), which itself has been given outline planning permission.

Another 2.3km road is proposed between Sandwater and Kergord for construction traffic, which will be upgraded and handed to the council at cease of works.

Engineers have been assessing the state of public roads likely to be affected by wind farm construction and a post-development survey will indicate the amount of compensation Shetland Islands Council will receive for damage to roads.

Contracts for construction of the wind farm, and for the massive wind turbines themselves, will be awarded when and if Viking wins the Contract for Difference (CfD) from the government.

This will guarantee an index-linked income per kilowatt-hour of energy produced for 15 years, introduced as part of the effort to help the renewables industry.

It is understood only a handful of civil construction companies and three turbine manufacturers will be in the running for these contracts.

Other large scale renewable energy projects in Shetland hinge on Viking winning the CfD, as regulator Ofgem has said it is “minded” to approve a 600MW subsea cable from Shetland to Caithness if the 457MW Viking Wind farm goes ahead.

Smaller scale works such as ground investigations for access tracks and turbine sites, the construction of the Kergord track and preparation of the compound sites are to start “by late June and continue beyond the end of the year.”

According to Viking, major efforts are being made to involve local suppliers and construction companies in the plans of the principle contractors.

It is expected the wind farm, now that Shetland Charitable Trust has largely disengaged from the project, will yield £2.2m annually to the community as well as supply contracts and crofter and landowner compensation. There will be an anticipated 140 construction and 30 full time jobs.

An as yet unknown amount of money will be paid to the charitable trust to reflect its £10m investment in the scheme.

Once the wind farm roads are built it is intended they will serve as access for crofters and provide leisure opportunities, but access to general motor traffic will be prohibited.

A meeting about setting up a community liaison group on Tuesday night heard residents’ concerns about plans to build the South Nesting wind farm access road from the east side rather than the A970 side, meaning heavy construction traffic moving along the South Nesting single track road.

Resident Iain Malcolmson said that objections had been raised from the start, but these had simply been ignored by Viking Energy.

Malcolmson said: “I said right from the very beginning that they should not be taking machinery through Nesting. They have said it is not going to last forever, we will just have to put up with it.”

Plans to shift the machinery during the night could be even worse owing to noise when people are trying to sleep.

Malcolmson, who was attending the meeting as part of Nesting and Lunnasting Community Council, said that the community council still had to take a formal view on the proposal to build the access road from the east.

The four most-affected community councils were invited to the Whiteness and Weisdale hall meeting but two didn’t attend. Representatives of the five most-affected common grazings were invited too and most sent several representatives.