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Energy / Councillors advised to offer no objections to proposed overhead electricity lines

A visualisation of what the lines in the Central Mainland could look like. Image from SSE.

COUNCILLORS on the planning committee will be recommended to offer no objections to proposed overhead electricity lines which could be built through Shetland’s central mainland.

The project aims to link Lerwick and Kergord as part of Shetland’s new energy set-up once the isles are connected to the national grid via a subsea transmission link.

Two 132kV overhead lines would run in parallel over the 11.5km distance, meaning that there is essentially more than 20,000 metres of line at play.

They are required to connect a planned grid supply point in Gremista, and the consented Mossy Hill wind farm outside of Lerwick, to a new substation in Kergord.

An application was previously submitted by developer SSE to the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit for the work.

Shetland Islands Council is a formal consultee and the application will go in front of elected members on the planning committee on Monday.

The planning service is recommending that the council offers “no objections”, if appropriate conditions are attached to the project’s consent.

The overhead lines will predominantly follow the route of the A970, from Veensgarth to near Sandwater.

They will be different than Shetland’s existing power lines; the proposed H pole is based on a trident design, and they will have nominal height of around 11m to 17m.

Sections of underground cabling is also being proposed by SSE, including between Mossy Hill and Gremista.

The plans have previously sparked concern from the Tingwall, Whiteness and Weisdale Community Council, with members in favour of underground cables instead – but this would come at a greatly increased cost.

In a report to councillors, the planning service said it is “inevitable” that the construction of the overhead lines will have an impact on natural heritage and ecosystems, while there will be a visual effect too.

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“However, what has to be considered is whether these impacts are so adverse that we should put aside the inherent presumption within the planning system which is in favour of development unless the adverse impacts of a development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, in this case a key enabling component to a sustainable energy development,” it added.

“There is also an economic benefit that will accrue together with a major advance in terms of contributing to a reduction in CO2.

“On balance it is considered that the economic benefits and the environmental benefits of carbon reduction outweigh the impact on the landscape and habitat interests tempered with the knowledge that well designed mitigation measures will go some way to reduce any negative impacts.”

Meanwhile plans have also been submitted to the council for a new 33kV switchroom at Lerwick Power Station to house equipment.

In a submission to the planning service, the developer said works are intended to start in October, with completion by the end of March 2024.

Lerwick Power Station, which is reaching the end of its lifespan, will go into standby mode when Shetland is connected to the national grid in 2024.

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