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Community / Community council demands new power lines be buried

Proposed overhead lines at the Veensgarth junction with the A970. Image: SSEN-Transmission

A COMMUNITY council is keen to see a proposed 12 kilometre stretch of double row overhead power lines between Sandwater and the Windy Grind above Veensgarth buried underground instead – but this would add another £24 million to the cost of the Shetland Renewables Connections project.

Described as an “eyesore” by community councillor Neil Leask at last night’s meeting of the Tingwall, Weisdale and Whiteness Community Council, the “forest of poles” (Leask) is an essential part of connecting the planned Mossy Hill wind farm to the Kergord converter station.

It would also connect Shetland’s domestic electricity network to the Viking Energy wind farm currently being built in the hills of the central mainland.

Attending an online meeting of the area’s community council, representatives from SSEN-Transmission were challenged particularly on the impact the proposed overhead lines would have on the residents of Veensgarth and at Girlsta.

Project manager Steven MacMillan said the company’s proposal for overhead lines and underground cables was the result of a careful balancing act of many different interests, and cost was one of the considerations.

He said that if “everything is buried no-one in the UK could afford their electricity bills”, adding that the cost difference between overhead lines and underground cable was about £1 million per kilometre.

That would result in additional cost of around £24 million should the double row of overhead lines from the Windy Grid to just south of Sandwater be buried.

The meeting also heard that the cable would run underground along Sandwater because of nesting swans, which prompted chairman Andrew Archer to suggest that the impact of the project on the “people who live here” seemed not to count for anything.

MacMillan insisted that a final decision on how exactly to proceed with the project has not been reached and he urged community councillors to respond to the ongoing consultation exercise which is open until 19 October.

He added: “I can only ask if there are particular sections that you think are visually intrusive please send in details to us and I can promise that we will look at it.

“I can’t promise that all will be undergrounded but I can promise that we will look at it and evaluate it.”

Earlier in the meeting there was again confusion about the conglomerate of SSE companies and the role of SSEN-Transmission.

The question was raised why SSE could not do “something for the community” and bury all the overhead cable proposed for the project, not just the stretch that runs through the Tingwall.

In response project manager Grant Smith SSEN Transmission had nothing to do with SSE Renewables, the company that builds the 103-turbine Viking wind farm.

“They are all very different companies. The company that is on this call is a regulated through [energy regulator] Ofgem, which has been set very specific goals by Ofgem,” he said.

“SSE building the wind farm is a privately funded company; yes you see the SSE overalls but they are different companies.”

MacMillan added: “We are regulated by Ofgem and we need to abide by their rules.”

To respond to the current consultation of the Shetland Renewable Connections project click here.