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Energy / Unst Community Council shows support for proposed Yell wind farm

The area in the north of Yell earmarked for the Energy Isles development. Image taken from the Energy Isles environmental impact assessment report.

UNST Community Council has voiced its support for the proposed 29-turbine Energy Isles wind farm in Yell, which could bring up to £1 million per year to the North Isles in community benefit money.

Its backing comes after its community council peers in Yell objected to the plans in June.

Unst Community Council said it welcomed that the three North Isles – Unst, Yell and Fetlar – were in line to receive up to £1 million per year between them in community benefit money, if the wind farm should get the go-ahead and became operational.

“We have received no adverse criticism of the project and believe that this type of project is necessary if we are going to generate electricity and income,” the community council said.

Yell Community Council previously objected to the current plans for the Energy Isles wind farm, which would be located west of Cullivoe, on the grounds of noise level and environmental and visual impact, as well as the height and number of turbines.

The turbines would have a maximum height of 200 metres from ground to blade tip.

Scottish Natural Heritage, meanwhile, has concluded in a new response to the plans that the “development would have a significant adverse impact on peat and peatland of national importance”.

“Given the extent and quality of the peatland on the site we do not consider that a large wind farm could be accommodated in this area without unacceptable impacts,” unit manager for the Northern Isles and North Highland Graham Neville said.

“We are committed to supporting good development in the right place in order to meet Scottish Government’s renewable energy production and we would be happy to talk with the developer about the scale of wind farm that would be more appropriate in this area of Shetland.”

The Ministry of Defence also objected to the current plans, as the turbines would cause “unacceptable interference” to the air defence radar at Saxa Vord in Unst, some 19.4km away.

“This would reduce the RAF’s ability to detect and deter aircraft in United Kingdom sovereign airspace, thereby preventing it from effectively performing its primary function of air defence of the United Kingdom,” it added.

“Research into technical mitigation solutions is currently ongoing and the developer may wish to consider investigating suitable mitigation solutions. If the developer can overcome the issues stated above, the MOD will request that all turbines be fitted with aviation safety lighting.”

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) also objected as it believes the wind farm would have a “significant adverse impact on the integrity of the setting of Burgi Geos”.

“Burgi Geos comprises a promontory fort of Iron Age date on the west coast of Yell,” it wrote.

“The fort occupies a long sinuous promontory between the deep and precipitous North and South Burgi Geos with cliffs 60m high. Coastal erosion is likely to have affected the site and may have reduced the size of the promontory.”

The monument is of “national importance as an extraordinary and unique fortified settlement”.

HES said that all 29 turbines would be visible from the Burgi Geos fort, with turbine two the closest at 530m away from the monument.

Shetland Islands Council’s economic development service noted that the community benefit money would provide a “positive socio economic benefit” to the North Isles, adding that there would be significant opportunity for local contractors during the construction phase.

It said, however, that the turbines would “alter this relatively unspoilt wild coastal landscape”.

The service said that as the Viking Energy wind farm has not been constructed, it is difficult to get a sense of the cumulative impact of wind farms in Shetland.

It warned that “careful consideration” is needed to get a clear picture of how to approve additional large wind farms without this knowledge.

Responding to earlier objections to the current plans, which included from Shetland Amenity Trust and the local bird club, Energy Isles director Derek Jamieson said “every wind farm project faces challenges”.

He added that the consortium behind the project would try to ensure that the wind farm would be “both efficient and environmentally acceptable for its location”.

“The concept of Energy Isles has always been about making sure that the considerable benefits of Shetland’s emerging renewable energy sector are maximised for the good of our local economy and community,” Jamieson said.

“And it would appear that a lot of local folk are in agreement with us – at our exhibitions in February, to which we directly invited residents from every listed household in the North Isles, attendees completed a feedback form which revealed that 80 per cent of respondents were supportive of our plans, nine per cent neutral and 11 per cent opposed.”