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Energy / SSE confident Viking wind farm will turn for 30 years

A number of turbine bases are ready for concrete pouring. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE EXPECTED lifetime of the Viking Energy wind farm has been increased from 25 to 30 years, project owner SSE Renewables has confirmed.

During a visit to the construction site on Wednesday, the company expressed confidence with the economies of the 103-turbine project, adding that no decision had been taken yet whether to apply for government subsidies under the fourth Contracts for Difference (CfD) round.

SSE Renewable’s head of onshore projects Derek Hastings said: “We now have hit a very good point here from the size of the machines, the technological maturity and confidence that these machines can perform for the lifetime of 30 years.

“What we are working on is making sure that this project pays for itself and works effectively.

“We have a very solid business case and would not have invested the amount of money we are spending here if we didn’t think it made money.”

Construction of the £1.2 billion project, which is building what is being described as the most productive onshore wind farm in Europe and connecting Shetland to the national grid via a new subsea cable, got underway in summer last year following years of legal challenge.

The original planning consent was granted by Scottish ministers back in April 2012.

SSE Renewables’ head of onshore projects Derek Hastings. Photo: Malcolm Younger

Hastings confirmed that all of the different elements of the development were all currently on time and on budget despite the challenges Covid has thrown at the project.

So far 45 out of 70 kilometres of tracks have been ploughed into the hill while five of 103 turbine bases are ready for concrete pouring, which is expected to get underway next week.

During a tour of the site much emphasis was directed at the degraded state of the peatbog particularly on the east side above Nesting where some restoration work was already underway by initially filling in deep peat hags before reseeding.

Stakeholder manager Aaron Priest said everybody in the team was conscious that the construction works had a environmental impact but insisted that the carbon payback time for the project had been calculated at less than two years

The company said it is confident it will be able to erect all 103 Vestas turbines – each 155 metres high – during a six-month window in the summer of 2023 with the expectation to produce first electricity by spring 2024.

The wind farm is scheduled to be fully operational by September 2024.

Hastings said Shetland’s wind regime created opportunities and challenges at the same time, adding that due the strength of the wind Vestas’ 4.3MW turbines were currently the maximum they could install.

And there was a strong business case without any government subsidies, as demand for energy, particular green electricity, was only ever to rise, he added.

“What the guaranteed price does is give you effectively an average value. (…). As this project stands there is no guaranteed income, there is no CfD, but we have no doubt that this project will perform,” he said.

“It is a combination of economy of scale, the yield, the site itself, all these factors come together for us to say: this is a very good project to do,” he said.

Hastings described the Viking wind farm and the associated interconnector as important enablers for Shetland, particularly as the subsea cable opens up renewable energy opportunities that did not exist beforehand.

He said he saw that as SSE Renewable’s main contribution to Shetland economy, and declined to be drawn on the developing debate on the benefits of a ‘Shetland Tariff’.

Leaving it to the politicians and the regulator (Ofgem), he said, it was not for him to comment on the issue.

“There is a lot of opportunity for a lot of people, but my primary mission is to turn on this wind farm,” he added.

Wind farm track construction is progressing above South Nesting. Photo: Dave Donaldson for Viking Energy