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Energy / Construction work on HVDC converter station could start later this summer

Work has already started on an access road to the proposed converter station. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

ELECTRICITY company SSEN says all the “major” planning consents are now in place for the construction of the proposed HVDC converter station at Upper Kergord.

Work is expected to start on the station later this summer if the proposed 600MW interconnector cable between Caithness and Weisdale gets the go-ahead from energy regulator Ofgem.

The converter station at the north end of the Kergord valley is a vital component of the proposed interconnector that would link Shetland to the national grid for the first time and would allow for the export of renewable energy.

The utility has meanwhile confirmed once again that the 443MW Viking Energy wind farm is wholly owned by SSE Renewables with no community control left in the project.

Shetland Charitable Trust plus four local shareholders (Viking Energy Shetland LLP) ceased to be a person with significant control in Viking Energy Wind Farm LLP on 28 May 2019, the company that develops and will operate the Viking wind farm.

Viking Energy Shetland LLP’s initial investment of £10 million will stay in the project and is expected to earn them a “preferred return” once the wind farm is operational. It is not known what those preferred conditions are.

Communities around Shetland, like all other communities in Scotland that host wind farms, will earn an annual fee of £5,000 per installed megawatt.

Due to the size of the Viking project this will result in annual payments of more than £2 million into a community benefit fund which has a membership of representatives of the islands’ community councils.

The converter station at Upper Kergord has had outline planning permission in place for a number of years but conditions are now being discharged by applicant SSEN Transmission.

Shetland Islands Council planners recently approved some of the finer details including site layout, building plans and vehicle access.

A spokesperson for SSEN Transmission said: “We welcome confirmation that all the major planning consents are now in place for the onshore infrastructure related to the Shetland HVDC transmission link, including the proposed substation and HVDC convertor station at Kergord.

“This is an enormous step forward in connecting Shetland to the GB transmission system for the first time, unlocking its renewables potential and supporting its future security of supply needs.

“We now await the final outcome of Ofgem’s consultation before full construction works on the project will commence, with works expected to begin later this summer.”

Work has already started on an access road to Upper Kergord despite the cable not yet receiving the final green light.

Regulator Ofgem, however, previously said it was minded to approve the cable subject to confirmation of the Viking Energy wind farm getting final investment decision – something which was announced by SSE last month.

The result of Ofgem’s consultation on the Shetland link is expected later this month.

A works licence to install the cable across the sea floor from Weisdale Voe out to 12 nautical miles was recently granted by Shetland Islands Council.

Planning permission for the main Viking Energy construction compound was also recently approved.

Wind farm compound gets planning approval

The 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm itself already has consent and has been described by the developer as “shovel ready”.

The team behind the development, meanwhile, say that new job opportunities are starting to be created in the isles following SSE’s decision to invest £580 million in the project.

Vacancies will arise within SSE, while other jobs with contractors and sub-contractors will be advertised in the coming months after contacts are awarded.