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Community / Council sets out community benefit expectations as offshore wind developers visit the isles

An image of a floating wind turbine.

THE EXPECTATIONS for tangible community benefits from offshore wind farm projects have been spelled out to the developers of three such projects planned for the east of Shetland.

Representatives from Ocean Winds, Mainstream Renewables and ESB Asset Development are in Shetland at the moment to discuss their plans with local politicians and stakeholders.

The local fishing industry has already called on the developers to work with the sector to reduce the impact offshore wind farms will have on the fleet’s access to its traditional fishing grounds, including compensation for the loss of access.

On Wednesday, Shetland Islands Council had an opportunity to press home its and the community’s wishes when it comes to disturbance payments and other benefits for those living in the isles.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

Council chief executive Maggie Sandison said while it was very early days for these development proposals, the requirement for co-existence with other industries as well as the principle of community benefit has been recognised by the companies behind the projects.

The developers are proposing to build three floating wind farms with a capacity of 2.8 gigawatts in an area designated through the Crown Estate’s ScotWind leasing round.

It may well take a decade before these projects materialise. However, Sandison stressed that it was important to “lay out our expectations at this stage”.

She said that the council was in discussions with the Scottish Government at the moment to define the principles of how community benefit arises from offshore energy projects.

The sites of the three proposed offshore projects. Image: ScotWind

Referring to the extremely high level of fuel poverty in the islands, Sandison said she wants developers to recognise that in addition to disturbance payments to the community any large energy development will contribute to inequality and disadvantage among the local population.

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“We want to work with industry to find ways to tackle that,” she told Shetland News.

“In terms of community benefit; I think that concept is understood [by the developers], I think the ‘how’ of it hasn’t been finalised.”

Setting out what she hopes to gain from continued engagement with these companies, she added: “We would as a council currently expect that there is at least a matching of the onshore provision [£5,000 per installed megawatt per year], but also a willingness to consider other provisions.

“That might be investment in infrastructure, or it may be actually resolving the question about the Shetland Tariff and finding a way of addressing the high energy usage and the high costs that exist in Shetland.”

The companies behind the three developments have been approached for comment regarding their visit to the isles.

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