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Energy / ‘Slightly more hard cash’ anticipated for Viking Energy community benefit fund after timeline rejig

Photo: Shetland News

AN EXTRA £1.6 million could potentially be paid out through the Viking Energy wind farm in community benefit money over the lifetime over the scheme after its proposed terms were altered slightly.

The full annual benefit payment of over £2 million a year for community projects will now only be paid once the planned wind farm exports power, instead of at the start of construction as previously suggested.

However, the team behind the proposed 103-turbine wind farm are now offering to pay £400,000 a year of additional money during the construction of the development.

This is expected to last around four years, meaning there could in effect be around £1.6 million extra coming its way to the Shetland Community Benefit Fund.

This is, of course, all dependent on the controversial 457MW SSE wind farm actually getting the go-ahead.

The benefit fund scheme is due to last 25 years and previously the proposals were for the full annual whack to be paid out from the start of the construction phase and into the wind farm’s operation.

Shetland Community Benefit Fund chair Chris Bunyan said the now-proposed £400,000 a year during construction would come on top of the 25 years of full payouts and is in effect additional “new money”.

SSE is expected to pay £5,000 per installed megawatt capacity in community benefit cash a year, meaning it could herald an annual payout to Shetland of around £2.2 million.

The money would be put towards community projects, while up to 10 per cent of the annual payment is set to be allocated directly to community councils across the isles, with areas featuring turbines in line to receive a greater share.

Bunyan, who chairs the benefit fund which the money would be paid into and then disbursed from, said the new proposals equates to “slightly more in hard cash”.

“The main scheme is delayed until they finish building, but in the time it’s being built, we get some extra money,” he explained.

“It would also allow us to do the vast quantity of work that’s needed before we open our doors and we can actually start the main fund properly, in terms of preparing business plans, consulting and that sort of thing.

“It is a vast amount of work that needs to be done.”

Bunyan and the fund’s secretary Neville Martin, meanwhile, recently went to the Scottish mainland on an SSE-funded trip to learn more about other groups and organisations that manage community benefit funds.

“It was very encouraging to see how enterprising these groups have been and to get their advice on things to do and things not to do,” Bunyan said.

Shetland Community Benefit Fund Ltd is a cooperative which was formed by the Association of Shetland Community Councils in the early days of the Viking Energy project, with community councils having a representative to its board.

The fund is primarily dedicated to receiving income from the Viking development, but it has held talks with Peel Energy, which has consent for smaller wind farms in Yell and outside of Lerwick. However, no agreement has yet been reached with the Manchester-based developer.