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Energy / Wind farm community benefit agreement ‘within touching distance’

Photo: Shetland News

THE COMPANY set up to receive and disburse community benefit money from the proposed Viking Energy wind farm is “within touching distance” of striking an agreement with its developer, according to its chairman.

Chris Bunyan confirmed it has “almost got to an agreement” on a deal which could see £2.2 million being paid annually from Viking to community projects.

He added that Shetland Community Benefit Fund (SCBF) also recently met with Peel Energy, which has consent for smaller wind farms in Yell and outside of Lerwick.

Bunyan reiterated that the Viking deal “all depends” on the results of UK Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) subsidy auction, which are expected to be announced on 19/20 September.

“We are within touching distance, and I’m certainly confident that if there is a successful Viking bid, then all the Is would have been dotted and the Ts crossed by then, and we should be ready to go,” he said.

“I think we both want to be in a position that come the 20th or 21st, which ever day it is after the Contracts for Difference is announced, we could announce that we have agreed these heads of terms and can move on to the next stage.

“That’s the plan – as soon as possible after, if there is a successful bid, to have an agreement there and then that’s ready to be signed.”

The agreement at this stage – £5,000 per installed megawatt capacity – is much the same as what was circulated to community councils earlier this year, Bunyan said.

The draft terms said that the benefit fund would award grants or loans to support community or charitable activities from not-for-profit groups.

It may also award grants or loans, or make investments, to promote “economic development activities” in Shetland.

Up to ten per cent of each payout would be given to community councils, with those in areas of turbines due to receive a greater share.

Bunyan said it would be index-linked to inflation.

He also confirmed that Peel Energy – which has plans for 17 turbines at Beaw Field in Yell and 12 at Mossy Hill near Lerwick – recently met with SCBF.

There had been doubts previously over whether the company would use SCBF as a way of distributing community benefit money.

“We’re talking to, and wanting to talk to, all commercial renewable developers,” Bunyan said.

“We have met [Peel Energy], and we’re going to have to see what happens next as far as they’re concerned. It is encouraging that we’re having a meeting with them and they’re talking to us.”

The proposed 29-turbine Energy Isles wind farm in Yell, meanwhile, still looks set to only disburse payments to Unst, Yell and Fetlar.

“We’ve not had contact with Energy Isles for a while,” Bunyan admitted.

Shetland Community Benefit Fund Ltd is a co-operative which was formed by the Association of Shetland Community Councils in the early days of the Viking Energy project, with each community council able to nominate a representative to its board.

General Election - 12 December 2019