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Energy / Campaign group welcomes gas power station proposal

Lerwick Power Station. Photo: Shetland News

CAMPAIGN group Sustainable Shetland has backed the idea of a gas power station being built in the isles, saying it would be a better alternative than the Viking Energy wind farm and transmission link to the mainland.

Chairman Frank Hay claimed the proposed station, along with smaller scale renewables, would be a “far better environmental solution for Shetland”.

This is because there are “significant environmental issues” with the proposed 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm, Hay suggested.

The idea of a gas-powered station in Lerwick which utilises LNG (liquefied natural gas) was raised last week by two international energy companies, BSWC and Gasnor.

They have teamed up with a proposal in response to energy regulator Ofgem’s consultation on its minded-to approve position on the proposed 600MW transmission link between Shetland and Caithness, which would pave the way for large wind farms to export energy.

Their plan, which was previously raised a few years ago but failed to progress, would see a “roughly” 50MW gas power station replace the existing oil-fuelled Lerwick Power Station, which is due to be closed before 2026.

LNG is liquid formed when natural gas is cooled to minus 162 degrees Celsius, with the process shrinking the volume of gas enough to 1/600th – making it easier to store and transport.

It can be turned back into gas in special plants before being burned for heat or to generate electricity.

It is said to be the “cleanest” fossil fuel and a possible bridge towards renewable energy, but some critics of the gas station proposal say that renewables like wind power should be the way forward for Shetland.

LNG is not currently produced at the Shetland Gas Plant near Sullom Voe Terminal, so it would have to be imported.

Sustainable Shetland – which opposes the construction of large wind farms in the isles – has welcomed the proposals, saying the cost “sounds like a very good deal”.

The developers claim the station, and LNG plant, would cost less than 10 per cent of the £632 million transmission link.

“Ofgem must surely look into this seriously in the interests of value for money for consumers,” Hay said.

“The proposed £251 million contribution from SHEPD towards the cable cost would be better spent on a gas power station and there would be money left over.”

Hay added that there are “probable impacts on local people” from the Viking Energy project, due to the proposed turbine size and proximity to some local homes.

“On balance, we feel that a gas fired power station with additional provision for smaller scale renewables would be a far better environmental solution for Shetland,” he continued.

“Not only that, a gas fired power station would be a reliable source of power, unlike renewables. Having to depend on long interconnectors does not bode well for energy security in Shetland.

“Even with an interconnector there would still be a requirement for an on-island back-up power station.

“With the LNG proposal there would also come the added bonus of an LNG terminal for use by the ever increasing fleet of LNG powered vessels.

“It is time for the Shetland Islands Council to review what the energy future for Shetland should look like and not be fixated on large scale wind farms alone as they seek to continue their cosy relationship with SSE.”