A development worker who will prepare the isles for the arrival of energy companies wanting to harness Shetland’s powerful wave and tidal resources is to be based at the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway thanks to European funding.
The 12-month project, launched by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the SIC, will cost £44,900, with half of the cash coming from the Cradle to Cradle Islands Northern Periphery Project, which seeks to help island communities develop a sustainable future.
The development officer will be looking for the best sites for harnessing marine energy, and examining related issues – existing biodiversity, environmental designations, available infrastructure, grid availability and potential conflicts with other activities, such as fishing, aquaculture and leisure pursuits.
They will be using the Marine Spatial Plan developed at NAFC to find the best way of integrating marine energy developments into the islands’ coastal waters.
The intention is to use this information to promote Shetland as an attractive location, using its enormous potential while ensuring that any developments are managed without alienating local interests.
SIC head of economic development Neil Grant said: “We have already been approached by several companies interested in working around Shetland. We anticipate that the crucial inter-connector will bring marine renewables to Shetland and we want to do everything we can to ensure this industry of the future is developed in the best way possible for these islands.
“There is the potential to create a lot of jobs, boost the local economy and create career opportunities, but it must be managed properly and we believe this development post will ensure that happens.”
NAFC director David Gray said: “Marine renewables could well be the first beneficiary of the valuable work done on creating Shetland’s marine spatial plan, one of just four pilot projects of its kind around Scotland.
“I am really excited about the NAFC running this project. It marks a new direction for the centre, which could well prove to be a crucial element in the future economy of these islands.”
Shetland is already working on many renewable energy projects, including the 540MW Viking Energy windfarm and associated inter-connector to the national grid. The potential for marine renewables to provide a further source of electricity has long been recognised.
The fledgling industry is attracting significant investment as the Scottish government looks to meet its target of generating 50 per cent of the country’s power from renewables by 2020.