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Energy / SIC leader says wind farm investment decision a ‘positive’ step forward in ‘uncertain economic times’

SIC leader Steven Coutts and economic development chairman Alastair Cooper. Photos: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council leader Steven Coutts says SSE committing to building the proposed Viking Energy wind farm is a “positive” development during “uncertain economic times”.

His views were echoed by former Viking director and chairman of the council’s development committee, Alastair Cooper, who welcomed the decision and said that the isles need that sort of job creation and investment now.

Coutts, who represents the west side, said the council was now looking forward to Ofgem approving the interconnector.

“We will clearly be continuing to engage with SSE on their plans around construction phase to ensure we monitor environmental impact and their plans around use of local workforce,” Coutts said.

“We have seen some significant job losses in Shetland due to Covid-19 and will be looking to maximise opportunities during the construction through the supply chain.”

Coutts described the interconnector as “critical for the economic future of Shetland”.

It has been proposed as a way of securing Shetland’s energy supply once Lerwick Power Station reaches the end of its lifespan in 2025, with the link able to both export and import.

The SIC leader also pointed to the cable’s role in plans for the Shetland Energy Hub project, which aims to prolong activity in the local oil and gas sector while at the same time integrating the move towards low carbon solutions and renewable energy.

“As well as the initial development of consented onshore wind, there are further long term opportunities around the energy hub and the transition to green energy,” Coutts added.

Cooper said that he was surprised by the speed of developments and added: “I think that Shetland needs all that work at this point in time.”

He said that Shetland still faces a difficult few years but the prospect of an energy hub at Sullom Voe as a wind farm spin-off, providing electricity to oil developments and “blue-green” hydrogen that can be mixed into the national grid gas supply, could provide longer term stability.

“For me, the wind farm is the catalyst for an energy hub at Sullom Voe and the council has been working actively on this.

“It will deal with the energy requirements for offshore West of Shetland and will create a longer term future for young folk in Shetland as well as carbon capture and storage,” he said.

“I think in the next five or ten years we can see quite a changed Sullom Voe Terminal from that which it is today.”

Cooper said that universal credit applications had doubled to at least 800 in the isles and that while the wind farm might bring hundreds of construction jobs, especially for civil engineering firms, he would like to see the environment protected with the creation of a body like SOTEAG that has monitored SVT for the past 50 years.

He added: “With Sullom Voe Terminal you can go back to the community and say, ‘this is the reality’ and I think that is important in Shetland.”