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Energy / Viking turbines set to start arriving from January

SSE Renewables reluctant to get involved in the campaign for a ‘Shetland tariff’

One of the Viking Energy wind farm's 103 turbine bases. Photo: Dave Donaldson for Viking Energy

ALL 103 turbines of the Viking Energy wind farm are set to be erected in 2023 as the project steams ahead on time and on budget.

The developer’s head of onshore projects, Derek Hastings, dismissed any suggestion that putting up all of the 155 metre high structures during the relatively short weather window of six to seven months starting in March next year was too ambitious and somewhat unrealistic.

During a site visit to the large construction site in Shetland’s central mainland on Wednesday, the SSE Renewables manager said turbine manufacturer Vestas had every confidence that the timetable set out was achievable.

Turbine parts are due to arrive at Lerwick harbour from January 2023, where they will initially be stored in lay-down areas before taken to the wind farm construction site.

SSE Renewables’ head of onshore project Derek Hastings. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

“Vestas are a world-renowned turbine manufacturer, and they are totally confident in delivering this,” Hastings told Shetland News.

“We are going to use four cranes, and we are working strategically. Most of the time there will be no problem.

“The bottom sections can lift in nearly all [weather] conditions; the challenge is obviously higher up, but we are confident that we will get the turbines delivered next year.

“We will have components coming from all around the world, because Vestas manufactures globally, as all the turbine manufacturers do.”

The 70 kilometre network of tracks is now complete, while over 80 of the 103 turbine bases have been constructed and poured in with concrete. Laying the 220 kilometres of electrical cable to connect the wind farm to the Viking substation at Kergord is well under way.

At an estimated annual production of 1,800 gigawatt hours (GWh) – or 1,800 million kilowatt hours (a unit) – the wind farm is expected to become the most productive onshore wind farm in the UK.

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It is said it will power between 450,000 and 500,000 homes when the wind blows, including those in Shetland, and save up to 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Carbon payback time for the construction is estimated to be between one and two years.

Seventeen S2 pupils and their teachers from Brae High School were visiting the site on Wednesday. Photo: Dave Donaldson for Viking Energy

Once operational in the latter part of 2024, and when the Lerwick power station has been switched to stand-by mode, Shetland’s electricity will come from almost 100 per cent renewable sources.

Yet, the retail prices for electricity are set to remain high and the cost of heating local homes with electricity double that of the UK average, despite the latest government support packages.

Cable trenches on top the Mid Kames ridge. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Hastings said it was not for SSE to comment on the council’s campaign for a special ‘Shetland tariff’ that would recognise the bitter fact that the isles are a major national energy producer yet are suffering from the highest energy prices in the harshest climate anywhere in the UK.

“We produce electricity that goes into the wholesale market, we can’t really get involved in any of these issues [the campaign for a Shetland tariff],” he said, adding that “on a personal level” he empathised with anybody having difficulties paying their electricity bill.

Hastings added: “Deployment of renewables on mass is one of the best and quickest ways of bringing energy costs down.”

He emphasised the importance of accelerating the net zero programme and said that as long as the electricity pricing was dependent on gas and oil, spikes in the price would “unfortunately” continue to happen.

SSE is in constant dialogue with energy regulator Ofgem and is engaging in the current consultation on the reform of the electricity market, he said.

Asked about the company’s commitment towards Shetland Charitable Trust’s (SCT) £10million investment in the £580 million wind farm, Hastings said it was currently working with the trust through the practicalities of making sure SCT would be getting the preferred return that had been negotiated.

He added: “It’s quite an interesting arrangement, I can’t think of anybody else who has the same [deal], but then very few projects had such a long development time and have had the level of investment made by others – I think it is a pretty good arrangement for Shetland.”

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