Objections made to proposed wave farm off west of Shetland

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Two organisations have objected to the Aegir wave farm proposed for Shetland. The Shetland Fishermen’s Association and Scottish Natural Heritage registered concerns about the application for a Shetland Islands Council works licence by the 28-day deadline, which passed a week ago.

On Thursday neither organisation said it was against the venture in principle but required more information before making a judgment. Aegir Wave Power will now have to undertake an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of its plan to anchor up to 26 snake-like power generators in the waters between Burra and Fitful Head.

The works licence application submitted on 18th December only specifies a large “area of interest” but Aegir has said the wave farm is only likely to take up about one square mile of sea. It appears the company was keen to move quickly to earmark an area through the works licence process before another developer got there.

Aegir is a joint venture between Swedish power company Vattenfall and pioneering Scottish wave machine company Pelamis. It only envisages having machines in place until 2014 and is entirely dependent on an interconnector power cable being laid between Shetland and the Scottish mainland for the Viking Energy windfarm.

The works licence application is being handled by the marine management department at the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway on the council’s behalf. Coastal zone manager Martin Holmes said yesterday the requirement for an EIA had always been expected.

The work will take many months of research and investigation and he said it was likely to be into next year before councillors on the planning board get to rule whether or not to grant a works licence.

The EIA will also assist Scottish government ministers who, as with the Viking Energy windfarm, will ultimately decide whether the renewable energy project should be permitted.

Not surprisingly, the Shetland Fishermen’s Association has acted to protect fishermen’s interests in an area which contains prime whitefish grounds, including the famous Burra Haaf. By lodging an objection now, the association gains the right to appeal at a future date if a works licence is granted.

Chief executive Hansen Black said Aegir had not applied for a specific site at this stage, only a general area but it intends discussing with the company where best to put the machines. “If they chose to put the farm in the Burra Haaf we would clearly be objecting to that but having discussed it with some of our members there are areas that it could be located in without causing a problem.”

Karen Hall of Scottish Natural Heritage said the organisation was not objecting in principle but it did not want the application going ahead without there being appropriate environmental information to support it. She said SNH had considerable discussion with Aegir prior to it launching its wave power bid, allowing the environmental organisation to advise which sensitive areas to avoid.

“For wave developments there is probably going to be some concerns but not as many as for some other types of development and some of those we might be able to get through by careful site layout and choosing where cable access should go ashore.”

The new-generation Pelamis P2 generators are 180 metres long and are likely to be positioned at least 1.2 miles offshore in deeper water. Combined, they could produce up to 20 megaWatts of electricity, which is more than five times the capacity of the five wind turbines at Burradale.

Vattenfall sees the development, costing in excess of £60 million, as a starting point for a much bigger wave farm around Shetland, perhaps producing enough power to rival Viking Energy’s windfarm and requiring its own interconnector cable to the mainland.

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