By NEIL RIDDELL
Recent discussions between the council and SSE about linking Lerwick’s proposed new power station with the district heating scheme were broadly successful, according to councillor Gary Robinson.
At a meeting last month SSE reacted positively to the SIC’s suggestion that the replacement station – which is expected to be built before 2015 regardless of whether Viking Energy’s 150-turbine wind farm gets the go-ahead – would be structured to allow any surplus heat to be used in the scheme.
Mr Robinson said that although SSE is at a very early stage of replacing the existing Gremista station, which would be necessary in order to maintain security of supply because of the possibility of a temporary failure in the proposed interconnector cable connecting Shetland to the mainland power grid, it was important for the council to join discussions at as early a stage as possible.
“I think it’s the right time to get involved rather than waiting until they’re further down the process,” he said. “There’s positive advantages both to the district heating scheme in terms of the heat that could be supplied, but also as far as SSE is concerned [it] would make the new power station cleaner and greener than it might otherwise be.”
The existing power station first opened in 1953, but it is thought to be hugely inefficient, wasting 60 per cent of energy from burning fuel oil in its generators, which is “dumped” as waste heat into Lerwick harbour and the air above Gremista.
SSE is looking at alternative sites for building a modern new plant, which would also open up a substantial tract of waterfront area for new ventures. Because Lerwick Port Authority owns much of the land which could be suitable for a new plant, chief executive Sandra Laurenson has said it may well be interested in acquiring the existing site for unspecified future developments.
The company’s Shetland manager Bob Kelman said the power station project was still in the “very early days” as the company was looking to put forward a proposal to regulators Ofgem and the type of building and location have yet to be decided, but SSE’s hope is to undertake the project sometime between 2010 and 2015.
“We’re preparing an application for something during that period, by 2015, whether that’s practically possible remains to be seen,” he said. “We’re looking at a range of things, biomass, renewables, as well as oil-fired and gas-fired stations, but until we get permission from Ofgem then that’s as far as we can go.
“As a company, if we get the go-ahead we would be looking at some sort of sustainable and integrated solution, taking into account the impact on the likes of the waste-to-heat plant and other sorts of businesses.”
The council is hoping that SSE will come to Shetland to deliver a presentation on its plans sometime in the not-too-distant future, though its hopes that Viking Energy’s proposed converter station in the Kergord Valley could be used as a heat source to expand the district heating scheme into rural areas have been dashed.
Although the station would be located close to Aith, Voe, Nesting and Weisdale, it would not be near enough to be a viable heat source. But Mr Robinson said it was hoped that other district heating schemes in rural areas could be brought forward, including one possibility in Mid Yell being looked at closely and other potential schemes in Aith and Symbister. “We’re keen not to be seen as a Lerwick heating scheme but to actually broaden the scope,” he said.
Mr Robinson said discussions had also been held about an ongoing project to install two wind turbines at Luggie’s Knowe to satisfy the electricity needs of the energy recovery plant at Greenhead Base. The turbines were originally on the SIC’s capital programme but other funding avenues are now being explored.
“We have to dump heat in the summer time and in the winter time we have to use the peak load boiler,” he said. “SHEAP [Shetland Heat Energy & Power] did a study into the peak loads on the boiler station and they coincided very closely with when the highest winds were recorded, so bringing a wind-to-heat project into the system should actually smooth out the demands on our system.”