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Energy / More clarity on membership of Viking Energy environmental advisory group

Shetland Wind Environmental Advisory Group met last week for the first time

MORE details have emerged about the environmental advisory group which has been set up to oversee the construction of the planned Viking Energy wind farm.

Among those confirmed to sit on the group include north mainland councillor Alastair Cooper, Andrew McBride from Peatland Action Shetland and Shetland Bird Club’s Pete Ellis.

The body – named the Shetland Wind Environmental Advisory Group (SWEAG) – will meet at least twice a year during the construction phase of the wind farm.

The group met for the first time on Tuesday (7 July). The meetings will be private and not open for members of the public to attend.

The developer is now looking to discharge a condition relating to the advisory group as it looks to have all planning consent in place while regulator Ofgem decides on the all-important 600MW interconnector.

The group’s final vision including its terms of reference has not been agreed yet.

Membership of the Shetland Wind Energy Advisory Group is becoming clearer. Photo: Shetland News

A decision on the cable, which would allow energy to be exported to the UK mainland, is expected within the next couple of months.

Cooper will initially be the designated elected member on the group, alongside Shetland Islands Council’s heritage officer Austin Taylor, while the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and SEPA are also on board.

Shetland Biological Records and Scottish Agriculture College will be represented, as will an academic institution which has not yet been named.

The group will “consider the environmental management activities associated with the Viking wind farm during the stages of construction, site rehabilitation, commissioning, operation (including maintenance and repairs), and decommissioning”.

Its purpose is to support Viking Energy Wind Farm LLP (VEWF) in ensuring that all “environmental impacts resulting from the project are minimised, that all restorative procedures as suggested by SWEAG and agreed by VEWF are implemented and to advise Shetland Islands Council” on the execution of the habitat management plan.

The group will not have the power to make decisions for, or on behalf, of Viking Energy Wind Farm.

VEWF will appoint a chair to facilitate the initial organisation of the group, and their responsibilities will include implementing an election process to appoint an independent chair.

The group will take inspiration from the renowned Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG), which oversees operations at Sullom Voe.

A spokesperson for Viking Energy previously said that SWEAG will be a “valuable forum for assessing what works well and what is not effective in improving the sensitive habitat around the wind farm”.

“A key aim for SWEAG is to build up a unique database of knowledge of the ecosystems within the wind farm and how best to repair and enhance them.” they said in February.

“As that body of information grows it will be available to share with all who have an interest in protecting peatlands and the wildlife that live there.”

Campaign group Sustainable Shetland believes the group should have been set up before some of the wind farm’s preliminary work, which has already taken place, got underway.

This includes ground investigations which were carried out last year.