By JOHN ROBERTSON
SHETLANDERS with a head for heights could carve out lucrative careers with Viking Energy in future if the windfarm gets the go-ahead.
The company is currently researching how it might help train many of the estimated 50 skilled engineers needed to keep the forest of 154 giant turbines turning for the windfarm’s projected 25-year lifespan.
The work is being carried out by student James Anderson from Walls with the aims of overcoming the national shortage of engineers, maximising the number of Shetland employees and attracting workers more likely to stay with the company.
Viking Energy project officer David Thomson said he hoped the jobs might help keep more young people living in the islands. He told The Shetland Times: “The idea of people moving to Shetland for a job isn’t bad in itself but what we do want to do is to maximise the opportunities for the locals coming out of the school.”
Among the ideas being considered are funding for scholarships and traineeships to help islanders through their engineering studies; link-ups with the marine centre in Scalloway to adapt their established engineering courses and with Shetland College, which already has training in small-scale renewable energy schemes.
With Sullom Voe Terminal and the offshore oil sector shedding workers in future there could be opportunities for oil and gas engineers to retrain for the wind energy sector.
Viking Energy’s partnership with Scottish and Southern Energy might yield the prospect of graduate placements with the national power giant for young Shetlanders before they come back to work on the North Mainland windfarm.
The range of skills needed to work on generators, gearboxes and other machinery includes those held by high-voltage engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, general engineers and engineering managers.
Mr Thomson said there was a need to start thinking ahead because the company could not just put a job advert in The Shetland Times at the required time for 50 skilled engineers and expect to find them.
“There is already a massive shortage of engineers and the reality is that there is two solutions to the problem – wait until you need them and just offer them more than anyone else is offering or the alternative is to start thinking ahead and try and encourage enough engineers to be around.”
At the moment time is on Viking Energy’s side because if planning permission is granted it would take more than two years before the civil works could be completed ready for the first turbine and three more years before all are spinning and generating power.
The complex planning application for the windfarm is now expected to be submitted around November and may take many months, even years, to run its course.