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Energy / Cable decision to be published ‘within the next couple of months’

THE DECISION on whether the proposed 600MW interconnector which would connect Shetland to the national grid goes ahead is expected in the “next couple of months”, according to energy regulator Ofgem.

The subsea link would pave the way for the 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm to go ahead, as well as other large renewable projects planned in the isles.

Plans for the cable taken from a booklet given out by SSEN in 2016.The route of the proposed subsea cable linking Shetland to the Scottish mainland. Image: SSE

Ofgem previously said it was minded to approve the cable – which is proposed by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission – if Viking Energy secured a positive final investment decision and ultimate green light from developers SSE by the end of 2020.

The regulator opened a consultation on the transmission project to seek views on the proposals before the £580 million Viking investment decision came in June.

It was suggested that a decision from Ofgem on the HVDC transmission project would come this month.

However, a spokesperson for the regulator clarified: “Our consultation closed on 18 June 2020. We are reviewing responses and expect to publish a decision within the next couple of months.”

Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission estimates that the capital cost of the cable – which would run from Caithness to Weisdale Voe – is around £630 million.

It proposes to construct the link by April 2024.

A HVDC converter station would also be built in Upper Kergord as part of the onshore infrastructure for the cable.

An access track to that station has already started being built, while the Viking wind farm itself is described as “shovel ready”.

SSE has already begun recruiting some staff for the cable and wind farm project.

The wind farm and cable have not been without their critics, with campaign group Sustainable Shetland consistently opposing the plans.

The link, meanwhile, would enable the diesel-fuelled Lerwick Power Station to close as planned before 2026 when it reaches the end of its lifespan.

The cable also forms a pivotal part of Shetland Islands Council’s energy hub project, which looks to tap into renewables to deliver a “clean, sustainable energy future for Shetland and the UK”.

One strand of this is potentially powering offshore oil and gas platforms through cables from Shetland’s shore as the industry goes ‘greener’, and to produce “industrial quantities” of hydrogen.