What is most notable about the responses of three of the four statutory consultees (the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) to the Viking Energy planning application is the scope they leave the developer to make adjustments to try to address the concerns raised.
Make no mistake, these bodies have identified some extremely serious issues. Yet none has drawn a line in the sand, as the RSBP did with the proposed Lewis windfarm, and said it will never be able to accept a windfarm in central Shetland. Viking Energy has an enormous amount of work to do to reframe its proposals accordingly. Even then one wonders whether it will be able to do this to the satisfaction of these organisations, all of which have been closely involved with Viking yet rightly demonstrated their independence by objecting or raising a series of objections where they saw fit.
The most common complaint of opponents of the windfarm is that it will be too big. We are told by Viking that transmission charges – largely determined by the cost of the interconnector cable and transformers required to export electriticy to the National Grid – are so high that it is necessary to build on the scale proposed. Yet with the cost of the link at £200-£300 million rather than the £500 million cited once upon a time and a continuing lobby campaign designed to encourage Ofgem to end the per mile transmission tariff, now joined by Lerwick Community Council, a smaller, less destructive windfarm might just be a possibility.
It is evident that politically, if not technically, this now has to become a strong option. It is apparent that the majority of folk in Shetland will not accept a project of this size. Of course the Scottish Government with its self-imposed emissions targets may decided to impose the windfarm on Shetland regardless. That would not be a wise course of action.