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Energy / Amenity trust maintains objection to proposed Yell wind farm owing to peatbog concerns

Norwegian company Statkraft now plans to develop a 18 turbine wind farm in Yell. Photo: Energy Isles

SHETLAND Amenity Trust (SAT) has maintained its objection to the proposed Energy Isles wind farm in Yell, saying it continues to believe the location is unsuitable for the development.

The plans for the wind farm are back out for consultation after Energy Isles developer Statkraft submitted final proposals for 23 turbines south of Gloup in Yell.

The amenity trust previously objected to plans for 29 turbines – and the latest proposals for 23 still do not sit well with the heritage and culture organisation.

In its latest letter of objection, trust chairman Alastair Hamilton said the proposed wind farm “will have an adverse impact on blanket bog” peatland.

He said active blanket bog is listed as a priority in the EU habitats directive. 

Noting that the environmental impact assessment for the wind farm “acknowledges that the proposed construction site comprises mainly blanket bog, much of it active and of a high quality”, Hamilton said damage to the habitat will release further carbon into the atmosphere.

“There is no evidence here in Shetland that once damaged, blanket bog can be restored to an active carbon sequestering state within a reasonable timescale (decades).”

Amenity trust chairman Alastair Hamilton. Photo: SAT

The trust also says an assessment on how the quality of the blanket bog compares with the rest of Shetland should be carried out.

Referring to peatland restoration that the wind farm developer proposes, Hamilton added: “SAT has been working on projects associated with peatland restoration here in Shetland for over 10 years and it is evident that it is simply not possible to replace intact, active blanket bog with peatland restoration projects elsewhere.

“It is not a like-for-like swap where one hectare of damage to active blanket bog can be compensated for by enacting one hectare of peatland restoration.

“Although it is possible to restore vegetation to something superficially resembling blanket bog, recreating active blanket bog is altogether more challenging and often not possible.

“The simplest way to conserve active blanket bog and ensure that it retains the ability to contribute ecosystem services such as sequestration and storage of carbon, and cleansing and regulation of water flow, is to leave it intact in the first place.”

SAT also reiterated concerns over the impact the wind farm would have on an area of land it describes as the “best example of wilderness found in Shetland”.

It also believes the wind farm would have a “negative impact on the Shetland landscape”.

Hamilton said the impact on the landscape needs to be considered cumulatively with all other consented and proposed wind farms in Shetland – something which “we feel has not been adequately addressed to date”.

The letter said that the cumulative impacts of industrial-scale wind farms “carries risks in relation to the experience of local people and visitors and therefore to Shetland’s reputation as a place that offers exceptional landscape experiences”.

The trust said in its initial objection last year that there was “clear tension” between the Scottish Government’s current policy on renewable energy and the importance it attaches to the role of peatland in tackling global climate change.

It also said last year that while it supports “successful” development of all types of renewable energy, “we consider that it would now be appropriate for the community, led by the council and with the support of the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit, to pause and reflect on all existing and desired consents, and carry out a suitable public consultation exercise that would focus on the impact and consequences for the islands as a whole”.

The Energy Isles team says using a Scottish Government calculator the developer believes the carbon payback time on the development would be around two years.

The project is estimated to generate electricity equivalent to the annual consumption of 190,000 homes.

Fourteen of the turbines will have a tip height of 200m and nine will have a tip height of 180m.

A community benefit fund for the project would deliver £800,000 per year to the North Isles, a total of £24 million over the 30-year life of the wind farm.

It is also expected to pay out £2.2 million a year in non-domestic rates.

The development and construction phase is expected to bring a total of £20.3 million of investment to Shetland, according to its developer.

Derek Jamieson from Energy Isles Limited said in August that “throughout this process the project has received strong support from local folk, but we’ve also worked very hard as a team to, where possible, address matters raised by consultees and the wider public so that our final submission reflects a project we hope the communities of the North Isles can be truly proud of”.

He previously said that “over the coming decades onshore wind power has a crucial role to play in helping to meet our climate change targets. The Energy Isles Wind Farm will play an important part in supporting this”.

The Amenity Trust’s maintained objection comes as the early stages of construction for the divisive 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm in the central mainland of Shetland gets underway.

There are two other consented wind farms proposed for Shetland – Peel Energy’s Beaw Field development in Yell, which could feature up to 17 turbines, and its 12-turbine Mossy Hill project on the outskirts of Lerwick.