VIKING Energy’s proposed windfarm, which could result in 154 turbines the height of the Great Pyramid being erected across north central Shetland, has provoked an angry response and left the community divided.
As final reports are prepared on the economic and social, environmental and health impacts to form part of the planning application that Viking hopes to submit to Scottish ministers later this year, The Shetland Times this week launches a three-part series that will examine some of the major issues surrounding the controversial project.
There are many: global warming, Shetland’s financial future, the impact on the isles as a tourism destination, the negative impact the council’s involvement in partnership with electricity generator Scottish and Southern Energy some islanders believe is having on local democracy. Then there are the technical questions like the proposed interconnector cable to the mainland to link up to the national grid, without which the windfarm will never be built. All these issues and more will be explored in the coming weeks.
Viking’s David Thomson has admitted the £50 million upfront cash injection from the Charitable Trust plus the £200 million that Shetland will have to raise in equity or loans is a major risk, but insisted that it was one worth taking for a potential cash windfall of £18 million a year after two years plus other community benefits, both on the jobs front and in cash.
Meanwhile Billy Fox, chairman of Sustainable Shetland, which was set up last year to oppose the windfarm, believes the finances are shaky at best. He is supported by local residents like Linda Bannister, pictured left, who think there are better ways for Shetland to exploit its most evident natural resourse, the wind.