By LOUISE THOMASON
FUEL was added to the fire of the windfarm debate this week with the confirmation that one of Viking Energy’s anemometer masts had blown down.
The mast, situated near the summit of Gruti Field, above Kergord, was one of three which have been recording wind speed data for the company for the past three years.
It blew down at between 3.30pm and 4pm during gales on Saturday 24th October. According to a graph of readings taken from the mast, this is when the last wind speeds were recorded, which were 115 miles per hour.
While the anemometer masts are temporary structures and the proposed turbines are to be much sturdier, this latest incident did not inspire confidence in the project from opponents.
Billy Fox, chairman of Sustainable Shetland, who walked to the summit to photograph the wreckage, said: “This was a structure, erected by a company who are assuring us there is no technical problems with erecting 154 wind generators in central Shetland. Each of these turbines is 145 metres high with a turbine diameter of 110 metres, significantly higher and with more windage than this 105 metre high anemometer mast.”
However Aaron Priest of Viking Energy said the anemometer masts were never intended to be permanent structures and therefore give no indication as to how the actual wind turbines will fare in Shetland’s weather.
In fact, plans for the temporary masts to be removed were already in place, as after three years of collecting data, their job had been done. Mr Priest continued: “The temporary masts were specifically engineered to reduce the amount of structure that would require to be transported up to the remote locations. This ensured that the minimum environmental disruption was caused at the time of the mast installations and no access tracks, for example, were required.”
Mr Fox said his main concern was that Viking Energy had failed to report the incident until earlier this week. “Anyone, during the week this situation had gone unreported, could have visited the site and put themselves at risk. For me it indicates a very lax attitude within Viking Energy regarding public safety, and that does not augur well for future operations.”
Work is now being done to remove the mast from the hill, with no plans to replace it. Engineers from Viking Energy are instead examining planned alternative locations for new masts to be erected.