No conspiracy (Jonathan Wills)

I have tried in the past to explain to Kathy Greaves that in an isolated electrical grid like Shetland’s there is a limit, imposed by the laws of physics, on how many wind turbines you can connect to it. Even with new “smart grid” technology, we are probably now quite near to that limit, with Burradale and many other, smaller aeorogenerators already plugged in.

This means that unless there is a cable connecting us to the British mainland grid, we will never be able to generate all of Shetland’s power from wind and tide, as Kathy and I would both wish to see.

Submarine cables cost a lot of money. That is one reason why any commercial windfarm in Shetland has to be much larger than one to supply only the Shetland grid.

The sites for the proposed Viking windfarm were chosen because they were areas with the fewest environmental conservation designations, so to allege that this is some sort of wicked conspiracy to destroy the Shetland landscape is just plain wrong.

Kathy also claims the £10m initial investment in Viking (not all of which has yet been made) is “wasted”. Trustees took professional legal and financial advice before investing. The investment is approved by the charities regulator and the revenue, who presumably know more about these things than Kathy or I do. And the trust’s share is still worth considerably more than we paid for it. So to accuse trustees of wasting the money is simply untrue.

Jonathan Wills

Sundside,

Bressay.

37 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    Jonathan,

    Not only have you wasted your own and everyone else’s breath with this feeble attempt to justify the squandering of SCT money on a project that, setting aside the ongoing legal wrangle, is highly unlikely ever to be built due to the fantastic cost of both the energy it would produce and the installation of a submarine cable to export it, you are diverting attention at Christmas away from SIC’s “Scrooge-like” decision to close Skerries School secondary dept. – but I don’t expect that entered your mind at all?

    I won’t be forgetting about Skerries and nor, I expect, will many others – 607 people have already signed the petition to save Skerries school which can be found at
    https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/michael-russell-msp-save-out-skerries-secondary-school

    Reply
  2. Sandy McMillan

    Jonathan, you are back tracking with your so called political jargon, I hope Mrs Greaves is not that gullable to take in the garbage you are telling her, I would not think she is, As you Jonathan are one of the Chairpersons of the Shetland Charitable Trust is it not time we were told the truth, that concerns the wind farms, or dont you know.

    Reply
  3. Johan Adamson

    How come Kathy gets a reply but myself and Christopher dont on the Omerta letter?

    You say you took legal and financial advice before investing. That doesnt make it right, though, or less risky, or in the best interests of Shetland. This is still gambling. With our money.

    Reply
  4. David Spence

    The whole project of Viking Energy is based on a minority of people cashing in on a project to which they did not contribute 1 penny towards. Yes, people will say the CT (acting on behalf of the whole population of Shetland) have invested in this project for the better good of the islands and this of the people of Shetland. However, the return (presuming the project was up and running) investment of this project, I believe, is around £20 – £23 million a year. If you take into account the cost of the project (around £760 million I believe) plus the cost of the Inter-connector Cable (estimated at around £2.5 – £2.8 billion) then the lucrative return for the CT is equal to less than 1%. Surely, it is not rocket science to see that such an investment is not worthy of even considering, and puts into question who in the CT sanctioned the go ahead for such an investment?

    The Viking Energy Project is there to mainly benefit the few (so-called shareholders) where Shetland and the people of Shetland will have very little benefit at all. The so-called ‘ get rich quick mentality ‘ pervades the psychology of the typical short term thinking capitalist (those people in the VE Project getting paid a salary (Why?) using CT money and who have, financially, contributed nothing)

    As for the £10 million of Shetlands money already been used up in the VE Project, will we get this back? I very much doubt it.

    Reply
  5. James Mackenzie

    “The investment is approved by the charities regulator and the [inland?] revenue, who presumably know more about these things than Kathy or I do,” writes Jonathan Wills.

    Last year I recall he didn’t have a very high opinion of the Scottish Charities Regulator – as can be seen in the following link (please forgive me for going to the other news outlet in Shetland, but I couldn’t find it in the Shetland Times archive):
    http://www.shetnews.co.uk/letters/5528-a-charitable-clusterbuckle

    Perhaps of course the regulator has already completed the personal career development programme Dr. Wills put together for him.

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  6. Suzy Jolly

    Not only is JW overlooking the fact that VE will not be a money spinner for the majority of Shetland residents, let alone make any money, he also appears to be overlooking one solution: take Burradale out of the equation and create smaller hubs of wind turbines. Shetlanders are not gaining financially by having Burradale present (apart from the few shareholders) so how on earth can he argue that Shetlanders will benefit from having VE beats me. He might fall for the spin and rhetoric spouted, many of us do not.

    Reply
  7. Suzy Jolly

    PS: And isn’t it also true that every Shetlander buying electricity via their suppliers has been paying a premium price/the subsidy levy for many years now – when are we going to get this money back? When VE is built, will we continue to pay this levy? How many years does VE have to be running for us to get all of this money back and for us to see hard cash in our back pockets/wallets, not some pathetic argument that you’ll build some community halls. Community halls do not put food in our mouths, clothes on our backs and heat our homes.

    In essence, we’ve been subsidising the wind farms throughout the UK for yonks and have bugger all to see for it.

    Reply
  8. ian tinkler

    I find Dr. Wills above letter hard to believe. As a Dr., assumingly with a scientific basis of training, how can he is so ignorant of simple physics? His statement, I quote, “This means that unless there is a cable connecting us to the British mainland grid, we will (Shetland) never be able to generate all of Shetland’s power from wind and tide” is utter complete rubbish. Any school boy physicist would ask the question, why is an interconnector necessary for that. The answer is so very simple, it is not. The sole driving force behind the £ one billion interconnector is to export electricity and make money for the happy few. I am sure Dr. Wills is not so stupid to be ignorant of this. VE proponents claim, the interconnector would be necessary supply power when there is no wind. Back up generation is all that is needed to do that. No cable whatsoever need serve Shetland to ensure that back up generation. The rest of his script is also wholly erroneous, his claim that Shetland is probably now quite near to that limits (independent power generation to cover present needs), and with Burradale and many other, smaller aeorogenerators already plugged in is total utter bunkum. It is a matter of simple fact Burradale and all the aeorogenerators on Shetland, outside optimal wind conditions, could not and do no supply enough electricity to power the landing lights at Tingwall airport. With optimal wind condition, not enough power is produced at present to illuminate and heat Scalloway! Further to the above, without competent planning permission and an interconnector, VE is of no value whatsoever. Even the totally stupid in utter denial must be aware of that. At this time VE has no such planning consent or interconnector: Dr. Wills are you unaware of that? Are you striving to deceive or just not aware of the facts?

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      “With optimal wind condition, not enough power is produced at present to illuminate and heat Scalloway!”

      Could you expand on this comment?

      I ask as I have long wondered how far Burradale’s energy actually goes. Obviously with it being so small scale it is near impossible to find any analysis of its productivity.

      The 7000 MWh per year looks very good on paper but I recognise it’s probably not as simple as taking that figure and dividing it by the average household energy usage, which I suspect is what the company have done in coming up with their “2000 homes” claim.

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        Robert,

        The “homes” they refer to is defined by Ofgem and is an average for the whole country, heavily influenced by the ‘urban heat island’ and construction (flats, tenements, etc,) effects of cities like London.

        Fasten your seat belt, Robert, it doesn’t make any allowance for homes which have gas installed, it’s electricity, only!

        So woe betide anyone who is daft enough to maintain an all-electric “home” IN SKERRIES!

      • Robert Duncan

        I’m well aware of that, Mr Tulloch, hence my skepticism. I’m just not convinced their estimate is so far wide of the mark that even the 450-500 or so homes in Scalloway couldn’t be powered on a day of optimal conditions.

  9. rosa steppanova

    Dr. Wills claims that before a penny was spent on VE “professional” financial advice was taken. May I remind Dr. Wills and the readers of the Shetland Times of a gushing, even sycophantic piece by John Robertson on 26th June last year? http://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/?s=best+renewables+investment+ever&submit=Search
    It concerns SCT’s “formidably experienced” financial advisor Quayle Munro and the managing director of its Scottish division, Rob Cormie, claiming that the VE windfarm was the “best renewables investment ever”.

    Two days later, based on QM’s splendid, water-tight financial forecast, SCT trustees voted to invest a further £6.3 million in VE. At that time it was already in the public domain that QM was going down the tubes. Three weeks later Cormie jumped ship as QM’s Scottish operation sunk without a trace. Blindly following the advice given by a company that was about to go bust, strikes me as reckless and foolish.

    Reply
    • Peter Long

      Too right Rosa. Trust no one.

      Reply
  10. Ian Tinkler

    Duncan, my figures were an educated guess. I fear Scalloway would actually require far more power than Burradale produces to heat its homes today! especially as being too windy for Burradale to function. I am sure Ratter and his acolyte Wills with their profound knowledge of Wind Farms and the of the laws of Physics will correct me if I have estimated wrong! Lol

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      This is a rather disappointing reply, Mr Tinkler.

      I drove past Burradale a few times on the day of your posting and the turbines were always turning – the Vestas models like most others have a cut-out speed of 25m/s, around 50-55mph, so it was perfectly functional. Regardless of that contention, my question was in regard to your comment on “optimal” wind conditions and therefore a severely windy day is irrelevant.

      Reply
  11. Jonathan Wills

    Kathy Greaves may have forgotten but I do remember a conversation we had about the windfarm, at the time when she was a Lerwick community councillor. She asked why we couldn’t just have a windfarm big enough to supply Shetland’s needs alone, without exporting power to the mainland.
    This stuck in my memory because it was a very good question, and it still is. The answer, from those more technically qualified than Kathy or I, was that it wouldn’t work. This is because an isolated grid, such as Shetland’s, can only accommodate a certain proportion of power from variable sources, like wind and solar.
    The other points Kathy raises were exhaustively examined by the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit, after an extensive public consultation in which she and I took part, following Viking’s own very detailed public consultation over several years. Personally, I would have preferred a public inquiry, and I voted for it but, in the end, the result was much the same: those of us who thought the original proposal was too big were vindicated, as the number of turbines was reduced by a third; and our worries about the effects on peatland, birds and the roads were largely dealt with when the democratically elected Scottish Government imposed strict conditions, designed to protect the environment as far as possible.
    This process was not perfect and some of us were still dissatisfied. For example, the civil servants rejected my suggestion that, if Viking wanted to avoid building on peatland, they could put the turbines on the solid rock of Ronas Hill, where everyone would be able to see the windfarm but it would be far enough away from most people to avoid the “Not In My Back Yard” complaints.
    Kathy may not like it but the fact is that, despite the current legal action by some last-ditch protestors, the windfarm has been through the democratic process and does still have valid planning consent.
    Jonathan Wills

    Reply
    • Kathy Greaves

      Questions on the proposal for a giant wind farm for Shetland did indeed come up at some Lerwick Community Council meetings some time ago, and by more than one member; answers to any doubts about the project were always to the effect that ‘it was going ahead anyway’. But I do not recall any such specific response by Jonathan.

      However, to the point, I remember many years ago being in Holland where they had medium sized wind farms to provide energy for rural communities. I find it hard to believe that in this advanced technological age of power generation, we in Shetland cannot provide power for our own use.

      Some ‘last-ditch protestors’ like myself have been objecting for years because of our many real concerns.

      I do not believe that the plan for the VE windfarm has been through the democratic process at all, just because a few people who have the power and control have given it the go-ahead, it cannot be said to be a democratic decision. Those in power are supposed to represent the will of the people; in Shetland’s case the people are not allowed to express their will and those people who have the power are making decisions despite objections.

      Where is the democracy here?

      Reply
  12. ian tinkler

    Kathy, debate or discussion with Dr. Wills is pointless. He will not answer any arguments questioning his own narrow views and appears either to utterly disingenuous or in denial, even perhaps losing touch with reality. I quote his comment “Kathy may not like it but the fact is that, despite the current legal action by some last-ditch protestors, the windfarm has been through the democratic process and does still have valid planning consent.” Has Jonathon never heard of Lady Clark, or wondered why Salmond et al have lodged appeals in the Court of Session? Jonathan are you not aware those appeals are because planning consent for VE have been put aside and ruled incompetent? Sad really, for a man whom I once had respected for to appear so much in denial of the truth and reality.

    Reply
  13. ALAN SKINNER

    Sadly, democracy appears to be a movable feast in Shetland. At the time of the appointment of trustees to SCT, we had several councillors, notably Doctor Wills and Ms Wishart, complaining that the process was “undemocratic”.
    However, when it comes to the education committee voting on the closure of Skerries secondary room, we have one of the religious representative being persuaded by an unknown number of councillors not to vote. This could be called “vote rigging”, but we will, very charitably, call it “gentle persuasion based on strong belief”. The “gentle persuasion based on strong belief” caused a hung committee, which allowed Ms Wishart, a committed educational centralist, to use her casting vote to close Skerries.
    Doubtless, the Education Secretary will take into account the “unique Shetland democratic process”, when considering whether to call in the decision.

    Alan Skinner
    New House
    Cullivoe
    Yell

    Reply
  14. Ali Inkster

    Yes Kathy du tell him. Just like when lots o folk objected tae da mareel.

    Reply
  15. James Mackenzie

    I hope the civil servants did not take Dr.Will’s suggestion seriously, as Ronas Hill is designated as part of both a Specially Protected Area, and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It has now also been included as a Core Area of Wild Land proposed by Scottish Natural Heritage.

    The fact, however, that the Viking Windfarm is proposed to be built on undesignated land does not signify that that land, and/or the species of flora and fauna it supports, are inherently unworthy of protection.

    That the planning consent for the windfarm is still valid (pending appeal) is argued by the Scottish Government, but that is, I believe, open to question.

    Reply
  16. David Spence

    A good example of democracy being demonstrated was the ‘ Donald Trump Golf Club carry on ‘ and how, conveniently, Aberdeen Council sacked the only objector to the Planning Consent, and passed through the consent despite other objections being aired and were not taken into consideration at the time.

    As well as this, the rather heavy-handed manner in which Mr Trump dealt with certain objectors and literary having a police-state mentality towards innocent people was very out of order.

    I sincerely hope the SIC does not learn any lessons from this unless it is to demonstrate properly the due processes involved without the use of under-hand tactics or bully boy persuasion being employed to get your own way in regards to the VE Project………..which, by all accounts, seems to be, hopefully, a lame duck in water…………………aahhh, why does VE not invest in wave or tidal energy????……….of course, far too expensive….albeit (with the exception of the CT) the investors of the VE Project have contributed nothing financially towards it………..use other peoples money…….but reap the profits for yourself thereafter mentality (typical trait of capitalism).

    Reply
  17. Wayne Conroy

    Last ditch protestors? Am I wrong in thinking there was 2,772 formal objections (including the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, The Shetland Amenity Trust and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) with only 1,115 in support?

    During the Scottish government consultation were there not more than 3,600 Shetlanders that signed a petition calling for the project to be scrapped?

    Maybe its just me but it doesn’t sound very democratic!

    Reply
    • rosa steppanova

      I can assure you it’s not just you Wayne. Our then SIC leader promised that: “If the majority of Shetlanders don’t want the windfarm, it won’t go ahead.” There was indeed, as Dr. Wills pointed out, a local consultation process but this was nothing more than a PR exercise. At every consultation meeting organised by Shetland Islands Council there was a resounding majority against the windfarm. The results, as you probably know, were ignored by those in power. Repeated calls for a referendum, supported by Sustainable Shetland, were also ignored. Local planning consent for the windfarm was granted against the advice of the SIC’s own planning department and carried by a minority vote of just 9 elected representatives. When it comes to VE, and dreams of riches for the few, democracy is – quite simply – suspended, and Dr. Wills conveniently turns a blind eye to this or puts up ludicrous smokescreens, such as his ridiculous idea to have the VE windfarm installed on top of Ronas Hill (anything to keep his anti-VE voters happy?). As far as I can ascertain, there isn’t much, if any, deep peat nor any whimbrel breeding on Bressay. The VE windfarm and converter station built on this island would have far less environmental impact, and I can’t think for the life of me why Dr. Wills has failed to put forward Bressay as the ideal location.

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        Quite, Rosa, Allan Wishart was complaining recently that the Bressay folk weren’t benefiting from the Shetland energy boom.

        And if the turbines were on Bressay and around Lerwick they’d be able to monitor their performance from the Town Hall and the Gutters’ Hut, directly, by looking out the window.

  18. ian tinkler

    Robert, domestic use (homes) is only a fraction of electrical usage… Industrial use is far greater. Now Scalloway is far from industrial but it does have considerable commercial and educational facilities. Also street lighting, port radars etc. I have asked our physics expert, Wills, for comment, also wind farm entrepreneur, Ratter. Surprise, surprise comes there none!!! As usual; Lol

    Reply
  19. Ian tinkler

    Robert, please check your facts “Vestas models like most others have a cut-out speed of 25m/s, around 50-55mph, so it was perfectly functional. Regardless of that contention, my question was in regard to your comment on “optimal” wind conditions and therefore a severely windy day is irrelevant.” now look at wind speeds on that day. Met office and Vespers information site should help.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      Ian, I cannot find a function on Met Office website to check weather conditions at specific historical date, nor am I sure what the “Vespers information site” refers to, but as I stated I passed the Burradale multiple times on the day in question and the turbines were turning. 50-55mph is force 9, close to force 10 – we may have had that weather the weekend before our conversation, and again around Christmas, but it was not that severe at the time of posting.

      I’ll repeat, however, that this is an irrelevance and you are simply dodging further comment on your claims about “optimal” conditions, which stormy days categorically do not offer. I assumed given the authority you spoke with that you were better informed than myself and most others but it seems you have little to back up your claim.

      Reply
  20. David Spence

    I would suggest to people if they want to get a good example of the impact of large wind farms on small communities, they watch the documentary called ‘ Wind Fall ‘ which is about a small community and town of Meredith in New York State fighting against large corporate companies wishing to erect large wind turbine generators on their farming land, and how this divided the community and the corruption that followed thereafter. It is quite an eye opener to the real scam of wind power, and what people will do to get their own way.

    Reply
  21. iantinkler

    Mr Duncan, For your information, severe weather warnings due to high wind speeds issued 18th, 19th and 20th December. One turbine out of commission due to lightening strike and static on 19th as of most of ealy December. Sources Met Office, Shetland Times and Northlink.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      Northlink disruption was primarily due to strong winds and heavy swell in the Moray Firth, the section of the crossing north of Fair Isle was much less affected.

      Severe weather warnings cover the entirety of Shetland and Orkney so don’t necessarily have any direct impact on Burradale – today, for example, there is a yellow warning for high winds but turbines are still turning.

      The turbine out of commission due to a lightning strike is just another irrelevant deflection – I will assume given your repeated refusal to do so that you are unable to substantiate your claims about the turbines’ effectiveness in optimal wind conditions.

      Reply
  22. Ian Tinkler

    Robert Duncan will you please take the time courtesy to read all I have written on this Blog, especially my comment starting “Reference: Ian Tinkler, December 19th, 2013 6:34, “Duncan, my figures were an educated guess.” You may notice I requested that “Ratter and his acolyte Wills with their profound knowledge of Wind Farms and the of the laws of Physics will correct me if I have estimated wrong!” I can only assume that it is out with their knowledge or interest to do as I requested. If you read Dr. Willis’s original you will notice his comment “there is a limit, imposed by the laws of physics, on how many wind turbines you can connect to it. Even with new “smart grid” technology, we are probably now quite near to that limit, with Burradale and many other, smaller aeorogenerators already plugged in This means that unless there is a cable connecting us to the British mainland grid, we will never be able to generate all of Shetland’s power from wind and tide” Now as an intelligent person, Robert, You must be aware this is utter tripe. Please comment, if you have the knowledge that you feel makes Dr. Wills is scientifically sound in his comment, as he is unable or unwilling to do so himself.

    Reply
  23. John Tulloch

    From the above letter:

    “This means that unless there is a cable connecting us to the British mainland grid, we will never be able to generate all of Shetland’s power from wind and tide, as Kathy and I would both wish to see.”

    So, in order to salve our consciences, instead of having, say 30MW of electricity subsidised by Scottish/UK Mainland customers, we will need those customers or taxpayers to fund a submarine cable for how much – £1 billion? – and then have them pay the inflated islands’ strike price, about two and a half times the price of conventionally-generated electricity for about 450MW of wind power and if you think that’s expensive, wait till you look at tidal power – you aint seen nuthin’ yet, folks!

    And by the way, I’ll be one of the mugs who’ll have to pay for your clean, green, Rolls-Royce-priced electricity fantasy.

    What’s wrong with gas, you’ve got enough of it?

    PS The EU are planning to order the UK to end onshore wind subsidies by 2020 because it is now a ‘mature technology which should not need support’.

    Reply
  24. iantinkler

    Just a further note on the one billion £ interconnector, not only will it allow Shetland to export highly expensive green energy from our wind power sources it will give us access to nice cheap French Nuclear when the wind is not blowing across northern Europe. Just as Scotland had to in the winter of 2010. O happy thoughts, so much for non-nuclear Shetland!! Reference: http://www.scotsman.com/news/green-scotland-relying-on-french-nuclear-power-1-1523147

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      Yes, Ian, it’s a bit like putting up the price of energy and causing our manufacturing industries to collapse and then having to import goods from the world’s biggest coal users, China and presumably, before long, Germany, given that their ‘brown coal’ (lignite) consumption has boomed to record levels since re-unification in 1990 and will continue to as 10 new lignite-fuelled power stations are planned to open in the next two years.

      So why not import our power from France? Especially, at these prices:

      “Jim Ratcliffe, whose company Ineos owns the Grangemouth plant in Scotland, told the BBC that UK manufacturers would find the price unaffordable.

      The government has guaranteed a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour (Mwh).

      Mr Ratcliffe said Ineos recently agreed a deal for nuclear power in France at 45 euros (£37.94) per Mwh.”
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25390456

      So why exactly are we paying French government-owned nuclear utility EdF £92.50 per MWh, inflation-linked for about forty years?

      Reply
  25. Allen Fraser

    From The Institute of Energy Research
    http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2014/01/06/uk-pays-millions-to-wind-farms-not-to-generate-electricity-while-scotland-fells-trees-to-build-more-wind-farms/

    Surely, sometime, someday, someone, somewhere in government is going to wake up and realise that there has to be a balance between industrial sized windfarms and the environment – there seems no end to the amount of environmental damage that governments are prepared to allow in order to let these unfettered companies reap the so called renewable subsidies we all pay for.
    None of our politicians, local or national, seem to have taken this on board.

    Reply
  26. John Tulloch

    £20 billion to be paid to utilities over the next five years in ‘constraint’ payments i.e. to switch wind generators off!!!

    http://www.thegwpf.org/wind-farms-will-paid-billions-switch-off/

    Reply

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