Councillors will not vote on the Viking Energy windfarm until July at the earliest due to delays in revising the size and impact of the proposed development.
Viking Energy has admitted that the hotly anticipated alterations it is to make to appease objectors will not now be revealed until the spring rather than “the turn of the new year” as previously hoped.
Viking project coordinator Allan Wishart said the so-called addendum to the environmental impact assessment may only appear in late March or April after which the proposals have to go out to another full round of public consultation for at least 28 days. The council has already warned it may seek an extension to that period to allow its own round of consultation before all the new information is eventually gathered and analysed by council planners.
Mr Wishart said Viking hopes for a verdict from councillors at a meeting in early July, which he admitted was a tight schedule, otherwise it may have to wait until after the summer break. Shetland Islands Council had been due to rule on the windfarm on 5th November last year before the matter passes to Scottish ministers for a final decision.
When it appears, the addendum is likely to present a smaller windfarm with fewer turbines and other design alterations in an attempt to respond to objectors and to a large percentage of the Shetland community which feels the proposal is too big for the islands’ landscape.
Mr Wishart said much of the work was going into addressing the objections of statutory bodies including those from Scottish Natural Heritage and the RSPB about the impact on birds. There has been difficulties in arranging meetings with national bodies and a delay has resulted from the tragic recent death of the main consultant who had done the bird impact assessment work which now needs further work.
Another issue being looked at is Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s concerns about the handling of the mass of peat which would be dug out for the roads and turbines.
Mr Wishart said: “It’s important to get the information all together; get it studied, see what the impact is of the position of turbines, the numbers of turbines – and that is not a simple, straight-forward exercise.”
Meanwhile, Viking has welcomed the government’s approval of the £320 million Beauly-Denny power line, without which the Shetland windfarm would not be possible.
As expected, Scottish energy minister Jim Mather announced on Wednesday that Scottish and Southern Energy’s controversial upgrade to the 137-mile spine of large electricity pylons would be permitted, boosting grid capacity from the year 2013 and enabling future onshore and offshore renewable generators in Shetland, Orkney and the north of Scotland to send their power to the towns and cities in the central belt and beyond.