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Energy / Arrangements for main Viking community benefit fund proposed

A view of the Viking wind farm from the Vidlin junction. Photo: Shetland News

MORE details have emerged on how community benefit money from the Viking Energy wind farm may be distributed once it goes live.

Around £2.2 million a year – £5,000 per megawatt – will be paid out by developer SSE Renewables to Shetland Community Benefit Fund once the blades start turning later this year.

A smaller advance grant scheme worth around £400,000 a year has been in operation during the wind farm’s construction, where community councils across Shetland decide on funding applications.

But when the wind farm goes live the bulk of the money is likely to be used for larger, strategic projects.

This comes after a public consultation on how the funds are best used, with themes such as transport, connectivity, housing and cost of living cropping up.

These priorities will form the basis for development of a full business plan. At the moment, however, it is unclear how the money will be spent.

Around ten per cent a year – £221,500 – stands to be allocated to a grant scheme similar to the current set-up involving community councils.

It would be split between community councils on the same basis as the current advanced grant scheme.

The four areas hosting a turbine would have a budget of £32,575 while the other 14 community council areas would have £6,515 to distribute.

There also stands to be a ‘tier three’ fund totalling £135,000 which will be for applications that go to three or more areas. Decisions on applications through this will be made by Shetland Community Benefit Fund.

One of the issues with the current advanced grant scheme has been applications to multiple community councils.

Shetland Community Benefit Fund chair Chris Bunyan said: “This has proved difficult for groups to know how to split any application between each area – and has meant community councils sometimes having to decide between applications from a local group, or a ‘Shetland-wide’ organisation.”

The proposed new fund guidelines will need a new agreement signed by all community councils before it can be set in stone.

The community benefit fund pay-outs will be index-linked over the coming years.

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