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Energy / Viking Energy sceptics raise concern over peat slides

Wind farm developer says slippage happened in an area already earmarked for excavation

Photos: Shetland News

ORGANISATIONS opposing the construction of the large Viking Energy wind farm in the centre of the Shetland mainland have warned to expect more peat slides after an area at the south of Scalla Field gave way on Sunday.

Diggers were seen all day yesterday (Sunday) trying to stabilise the area next to a new track across the hill.

At 281 metres in height, Scalla Field is earmarked to host eight turbines once construction work is completed by 2024.

Viking Energy’s Aaron Priest said some of the excavated turves being temporarily stored at the roadside for reinstatement work slipped down the slope for a short distance, taking some of the surface material immediately below with them.

“Investigations are being conducted by our geotechnical engineers and an operation to tidy up what appears to be a relatively minor slippage within the boundary of what is a work area is now being planned,” he said.

Frank Hay of Sustainable Shetland said he was not surprised by the incident, which he put down to “poor peat management” by the developer.

“It comes as no surprise that there should be a peat slide on one of the slopes that Viking are driving tracks through,” he said.

“In this instance the slide appears to have been caused by poor peat management with excavated peat being piled high at the top of a steep slope.

“On Friday the mound of peat was particularly noticeable and there were comments from locals that, even from a distance, this looked to be risky.

“It is of particular concern that this should happen during a spell of dry weather; they can’t blame exceptional rainfall for their problems this time

Ernie Ramaker of Save Shetland said there has always been a high risk of peat slides in areas like Scalla Field, “and local knowledge will bear this out”.

“We believe VE have not listened to the concerns as usual and have ploughed on regardless,” he said.

“Quite apart from the questions this raises on environmental damage, it also raises other concerns on HSE [Health and Safety Executive] if this were to happen in the proximity of vehicles or pedestrians.”

Priest continued saying that the slippage happened in an area already earmarked for excavation as the adjacent wind farm track continues to be constructed to reach its final level.

“The turves also sit in what is a borrow pit search location from where rock may soon be extracted if the underlying rockhead proves itself suitable for extraction and use,” he said.

“Approximately one third of the circa 70km of wind farm tracks have now been constructed, suitable for construction traffic on site, but with more work required to allow large components to be delivered over them.

“Work on crane hard-standings is now also ongoing, with work due to commence on turbine foundation excavations in May.”

Hay also raised concern about the amount of dust generated by trucks and other heavy plants using the tracks.

“The dry weather has actually been causing dust problems for Viking along the unbound track surfaces. So far, their efforts to mitigate dust on small sections of track in public view have not been too successful,” he said.