Multi-million bonanza from Viking windfarm

Shetland could earn £37 million a year from the giant Viking windfarm, according to revised figures in Viking Energy’s application for planning consent, lodged on Wednesday.

The projected profit from the 150-turbine complex is significantly greater than the £25m to £30m indicated previously. Shetland Charitable Trust alone could bank over £23m a year, 27 per cent above previous estimates and more than it has raked in from the oil industry.

The four private Shetland businessmen from the Burradale windfarm, who have a five per cent stake in the Viking windfarm project, stand to earn £3m a year while £2.6m would go to land owners and crofting tenants.

Local companies could share in £8m a year from supplying services to the windfarm and a further £1m will be earned annually for community benefit payments, the nature of which is to be discussed with the Shetland community shortly.

While the expected profits have soared so has the cost of building the windfarm, up from £552m last year to £800m to provide turbines, cables, roads and sub-stations on four sites in the central Mainland, eventually covering 623 acres from Sella Ness to Weisdale.

The turbine forest would produce up to 540 megaWatts with each turbine stretching 145 metres into the air from its base to the tip of the blades at their highest point.

When the windfarm is operating it should create 49 permanent jobs and a further 26 in support services. The five-year construction period should yield 221 jobs, peaking at 400 for one year.

The new information is contained in the 40 chapters and supplementary documents which provide backing evidence for the planning bid and are available on Viking Energy’s website

The company estimates the windfarm would supply two billion units of electricity to the National Grid each year, supplying 20 per cent of Scotland’s domestic energy consumption. It would also bring the Scottish Government 12 per cent closer to its target of sourcing half the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The plans are opposed by the campaign group Sustainable Shetland which has gathered around 2,500 signatures on a local petition with up to 300 more signatures still to come in. It believes the Viking proposal is too big and damaging for the landscape and too risky a venture for public funds.

Chairman Billy Fox said today the debate could now begin in earnest following a state of limbo over the past year or so. The group will ratchet up its campaign locally and nationally with a view to harnessing what it believes is growing opposition to the windfarm.

“We are finding that more and more folk are now getting upset about it because I think there was a big element of the Shetland public that thought it wouldn’t even go to planning,” Mr Fox said. “Now that there is something tangible and it is possibly going to become more of a reality I think there is more concern going to come out.”

Viking Energy is a joint venture between the community, through the charitable trust, and Scottish and Southern Energy.

Scottish and Southern’s chief executive Ian Marchant said: “I hope the people of Shetland will embrace the unique opportunity they have to share in the potential this project has to offer.”

A period of public consultation by the planning authorities will follow today’s submission of the application, which will then be considered by the SIC at the behest of the Scottish government’s energy consents unit, which is currently assessing 23 applications for windfarms.

It could be up to two years before the planning application is decided upon by the Scottish energy minister if a public inquiry is triggered by opposition to the plans.

The project cannot go ahead without an electrical connection cable to the Scottish mainland. Scottish and Southern Energy’s transmission network operating division (SHETL) will submit proposals for a 600MW sub-sea connector between Shetland and Portgordon over the coming months.

As well as passing its view to the minister, the SIC will have to give the go-ahead to raising the estimated £360m the community will have to put up from its own funds and borrowings from private investors to match the finance required of Scottish and Southern and the Shetland businessmen.


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