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Energy / Land court satisfied with Viking Energy’s larger wind turbines

The height of the turbines for the development has been increased by 10 metres. Photo: Viking Energy

THE SCOTTISH Land Court has granted permission to Viking Energy to build larger wind turbines on crofting land in the central mainland of Shetland.

Referring to an earlier decision by the land court, Chairman Lord Minginish said the court was satisfied that the development continued to be reasonable and that the scheme provides fair recompense to the members of the crofting community.

It relates to the maximum height of the wind turbines increasing from 145 metres to 155 metres – something which gained planning permission from the Scottish Government last year.

Because the wind farm is being built on crofting land affecting several townships and common grazing areas, the project requires consent from the Scottish Land Court, which looks after crofting matters.

In September 2018 Viking Energy was granted consent from the land court to erect 103 turbines with a maximum height of 145 metres. The company then applied for the maximum tip height to be increased to 155 metres to allow the turbines’ installed capacity to increase from 3MW to 4.3 MW.

The new application attracted a number of objections from crofters in the Aith area but most of the arguments put forward by the objectors were deemed to be “planning and environmental matters” over which the court has no jurisdiction.

Planning permission for the increased height (and capacity) for the turbines was granted by the government’s energy consents unit in May last year.

The main focus for the court on issues such as this is whether the development is for a reasonable purpose and to ensure that those affected – the crofting communities – are recompensed adequately.

The court noted that since its earlier decision three things had happened:

  • Viking Energy had been unsuccessful in obtaining government subsidy under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme;
  • Energy regulator Ofgem had approved the construction of the interconnector, and
  • Viking Energy had themselves declared committed to the project even without CfD.

Viking Energy told the court that despite the unsuccessful bid for CfD money and the “considerable” uncertainties in the wind energy market they had no intention to seek to re-negotiate the various payments to be made under the lease.

In supplementary reports by Timothy Kirkwood, on behalf of the developer, these payments to affected crofters were described as fair, “and indeed generous, since the majority of the land to be developed is common grazing.”

Kirkwood also noted that crofters were expected to benefit financially from the increased capacity of the wind farm to an extent that would compensate for the loss of the CfD payments.

The court concluded that “in light of that contradicted evidence as to the effect of what is new about this scheme and the situation as it now stands, we are satisfied in respect of all the factors listed (…) and have therefore consented to the new scheme.”

The consent has been granted for a duration of 38 years.

A spokesperson for Viking Energy said:”Through its decision, the court has reaffirmed, under crofting law, its 2018 decision that the development is for a reasonable purpose; the scheme proposed is not unfair; that it provides fair recompense to each member of the crofting community in the affected area and that the crofting community will benefit financially more than if the development were not to go ahead.”