Now that the documents making the case for a colossal 150-turbine windfarm in Shetland have been published, as part of the Viking Energy Partnership’s planning application, the debate over the worth or otherwise of the project, on environmental and financial, if not yet public health grounds, can begin in earnest.
There is much to commend the project, although the scale of the investment for such a small community (the cost has risen from £552 million to £800 million, of which Shetland must provide half) will be nauseating for many. Firstly, the revenue: £37 million a year for the isles. Secondly, the jobs: 49 permanent posts, 26 supporting posts and up to 400 posts during construction. Thirdly, the environment: with a suggested carbon payback time of 3.7 years (for a project with a lifespan of 25 years) and with it able to provide up to 20 per cent of Scotland’s domestic energy consumption, the windfarm, if built, would in its own small way help in the battle to save the planet.
The trouble is its scale. Most of the objections centre on the aesthetics: how it will ruin the unique look of Shetland and the view from many householders’ windows. No amount of documentation is likely to alter that sentiment. In deciding as a community how we want to proceed, we all should at least look at and consider the huge amount of expert work that has been done.
The choice of David Clark as the SIC’s new chief executive looks to be a shrewd one. It’s not only that he is the son of the legendary Ian Clark, the council’s first top official. His experience on major capital projects with other local authorities will greatly be required. And he sounds as if he is a good public communicator, a much needed attribute in the upper echelons of the council.