VIKING Energy is set to know in a matter of weeks if it is successful in winning government subsidy, which would pave the way for the 103-turbine wind farm to go ahead.
Results of the latest round of the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction are expected between 6-9 September.
The CfD scheme is government’s main mechanism for supporting the deployment of new low carbon electricity generation, with the aim of reducing the capital outlay for developers while minimising the cost to customers.
A successful bid from the Viking Energy project, which is backed by SSE, is expected to then lead to an undersea interconnector cable getting the go-ahead which is needed to allow large renewable projects like the wind farm to export energy to the national grid.
Once CfD auction winners start to generate electricity they are paid the difference between the ‘strike price’, which is determined by the competitive auction, and the ‘reference price’ – a measure of the market price for electricity in the British market – for each unit of green electricity exported.
Viking Energy ground investigation works began in July to advise the planning of the main development, with construction on the wind farm slated to start in May 2020 – or earlier.
A new access road, meanwhile, is being installed off the main A971 road as part of the Viking Energy ground investigation work at the Scord of Weisdale.
Concerns were raised by anti-Viking campaigners Sustainable Shetland that the road may have been for access to a proposed compound for the construction of the wind farm, despite it not yet having planning permission.
But it is understood that the new road work is being undertaken at the request of Shetland Islands Council to satisfy road visibility requirements.
Sustainable Shetland vice-chairman James Mackenzie said the public should have been informed before the work on the new access road started.
“A lot of people are getting upset as a consequence of very limited information and unprecedented action such as flying a helicopter around as if it was on some military mission,” he added.
The site is one of two ‘satellite’ compounds on either side of the Lang Kames for use by helicopters during the ground investigation work.
A compound for the main construction period in the area is also in Viking Energy’s sights, as well as one south of Voe and a main one near the Halfway House.
While planning permission for the construction of temporary compounds was included as part of the consent for the 103-turbine wind farm, Viking Energy has since submitted fresh applications because it wants to increase the size of the compounds.
It comes as Shetland Islands Council’s outdoor access officer Kevin Serginson said a core path, which forms part of the Weisdale and Tactigill Circular walk, would be directly affected by the westside construction compound.
The walk is popular as it allows people striking views over Weisdale.
Responding to the planning application for the westside compound, Serginson added that “accommodating the route of the core path both during and after construction has not been referred to at all in the design and access statement for the development or in the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) which is disappointing as it has been highlighted from the start”.
A report provided by the developer said that the applicant had “identified a requirement to increase the size of the compounds in order to facilitate the expeditious construction of the proposed wind farm”, and as a result there are three active planning applications.
The main compound would be 250m by 250m in size, while the north and west ones would be 200m by 200m. They are being proposed for five years.
They would include equipment storage, office accommodation and maintenance and refuelling facilities.
Serginson, meanwhile, also said in response to the west compound the impact on the core path will “need to be taken into account for the construction phase with a suitable alternative route provided for the public to use at all times, along with relevant signage”.
He also said that “Viking Energy are yet to produce an Outdoor Access Plan”, which is a required planning condition.
“One aspect that would be considered in an Outdoor Access Plan, and that was offered by Viking Energy as mitigation in the original Environmental Statement, was an improvement in car parking to facilitate outdoor access,” Serginson continued.
“The track that access and passes the proposed compound gives access from the A971 to the western half of the wind farm development which will be available to members of the public for non –motorised use (walking, cycling and horse riding). With that in mind after decommissioning it would seem appropriate to consider some of the compound to be retained for public parking for access users as part of the site re-instatement.”
It was reported last week that Shetland Islands Council’s planning service sought clarification on preliminary ground investigation works in the area following queries from the public over whether all necessary permits were in place.
Concerns have also been raised by some locals that helicopters flying in the area to transport staff and equipment for ground investigation work have been taking to the air before 9am on Sundays.
It is understood, however, that despite unrest with some locals, no formal complaints have been made.
Contractors from BAM Ritchies are based at a compound at Rova Head in Lerwick, with staff and equipment flown to the ground investigation sites by helicopter.
In addition to the site at the Scord of Weisdale, contractors have also been utilising an old piece of road near to the Loch of Voe for helicopter landings and take-offs, while the adjoining council compound is also being used.
Shetland Islands Council’s roads service has warned that motorists may experience short delays in the area and should allow extra time to catch the Whalsay ferry.
Stop/go boards will occasionally be used to control traffic during helicopter landings and take-offs.
A spokesman for Viking Energy said: “The ground investigation works are progressing as planned. All stakeholders have been informed and every effort is being made to minimise disturbance to the community, wildlife and the environment.”