They work quietly away in the background but Mina, Betsy, Brenda, Sally and Karen are playing a key role in providing what has been described as the world’s most productive windfarm.
The turbines, which were given female names when they began to appear above the Burradale skyline above the Brig of Fitch in 2000, have helped make the isles a key location for wind energy according to Shetland Aerogenerators Ltd, the organisation behind them.
The company says it has sold over 16,400,000 units of electricity during the last year – fractionally above the 2008 total, which was itself considered a hugely positive result.
Now the company has openly backed the controversial windfarm project proposed for the Central Mainland by Viking Energy, highlighting the data it has collected as clear evidence of the potential for future green energy projects.
Last year’s figures helped ensure Burradale never had an annual load capacity of less than 50 per cent, calculated after all maintenance, breakdowns and internal electrical losses were deducted.
From the company’s half-hour accredited metering records, every single day in 2009 saw some amount of power pushed over Burradale’s meters.
So far, the most successful year was 2005, when the windfarm produced 18,351,719 units of electricity – a capacity load factor of 56.9 per cent.
Company director Angus Ward said he was delighted with the results, which showed Shetland belonged at the heart of wind energy production.
“Our project’s had another good year. Wind energy in Shetland is a commercial success,” Mr Ward said.
Turbine number two at Burradale – otherwise known as Betsy – has built on its success during 2008 when it emerged as the most productive of the five machines.
During 2009 Betsy was the best turbine again, which, Mr Ward said, arguably made it the world’s most productive commercial wind turbine. Turbine number one, Mina, remains just behind.
“We have the world number one but we also have numbers two, three, four and five,” Mr Ward said. “A few days worth of power is all that separates our top two ladies.”
Fellow company director Dennis Thomson said the news highlighted Shetland’s suitability to hosting wind power developments.
“It demonstrates that in the height of summer or in the calmest bits of winter, the wind is blowing somewhere and it’s usually blowing in Shetland’s hills,” Dennis Thomson said.
The units of electricity generated from the wind at the Burradale windfarm reduce the number that would otherwise have to be produced from existing oil-based generation.
The company has proclaimed last year’s 16.4 million units of wind energy officially save over seven thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
Mr Ward said the positive results meant Viking Energy’s proposed windfarm in the Central Mainland deserved serious consideration if the benefits that could be wrought from wind energy were to be truly realised.
“I think Shetland should consider very carefully the rewards possible from part-ownership of the Viking proposals,” he said.
He was backed by another director Michael Thomson, who said data collected since the first turbine was erected a decade ago pointed to major benefits for the environment.
“We made a parallel with Viking Energy and we believe there is very little to fear about resources,” Michael Thomson said. “You can’t argue with 10 years-worth of data. It’s proven. It’s not theoretical.”
However, Billy Fox, chairman of Sustainable Shetland, the group opposed to the Viking Energy windfarm plans, reiterated previous claims by the group they were not against windfarms, just the scale of the Viking project.
“Nobody could argue there’s a lot of wind in Shetland but if you take the Burradale windfarm up to the scale of the Viking Energy proposal – it’s all a question of scale,” Mr Fox said.
“Sustainable Shetland is not against windfarms per se. The major problem is where they [Viking Energy] want to build it and the amount of peat they will have to displace to get it up.”