Launching the much-delayed final layout on Wednesday, the developer claimed it shows it has listened to people’s concerns including removing turbines and roads from near people’s homes. Viking hopes it has now won round the official bodies which objected to its previous proposal for 150 turbines.
The number of turbines has been reduced to 127 in the so-called addendum to the planning consent application, including the removal of all eight turbines from the Collafirth site near Voe due to the presence of rare birds and the “pristine” quality of its peatland. Studies have indicated that nearly 68 per cent of the peat on the other turbine sites is already deteriorating but Viking intends carrying out work to halt erosion.
Nine turbines have been cut in Delting along with a hilltop road planned for Setter, near Voe. Five turbines have been cut in Nesting, nearest to houses, along with a proposed road at Newing. Only one turbine has been cut from the Kergord site.
The eye-catching downward revision of the carbon payback time stems from an estimate that more than two-thirds of peat on the site is “already deteriorating and releasing stored carbon”. It had previously been a best-case scenario of 2.3 years and a worst-case estimate of 14.8 years.
Viking says the total area occupied by the windfarm, post-construction, will be down from 252 hectares to 104 hectares, due partly to plans to reinstate more ground, including reducing double-track roads to single-track once the turbines are erected.
Although the power output has gone down from 540MW to 457MW, the estimated profit to Shetland Charitable Trust remains at around £23 million a year, partly due to the rise in energy prices and the project’s capital cost falling from £800 million to £685 million.
If Viking’s projections prove accurate it believes the windfarm could earn £930 million for Shetland across its 25-year lifespan. Project coordinator Allan Wishart said it was a Shetland project to equal the opportunities presented by oil in the 1970s.
He asked: “Is there any other scheme or project that can offer so much both to deal with the effects of climate change and bringing a substantial income to these islands? I think that’s the big thing looking at the long term – it’s unmatched.”
The slimmed-down windfarm could leave 143MW of spare capacity in the required interconnector cable to the Scottish mainland, opening up the potential for many more smaller-scale renewable energy generating projects in Shetland, such as the Aegir wavepower venture and small windfarms proposed for North Yell and Quarff.
Viking Energy Partnership chairman Bill Manson said the changes to the windfarm plan would reduce the impact on residents, birds and archaeology and that the windfarm would occupy only 0.56 per cent of the 18,700 hectares of the central Mainland. Two operational access junctions have been removed and the network of access roads has been reduced by 14km to a total of 100km.
“We have listened to what people have said and we have put a massive amount of time and effort into making changes to address concerns,” he said. “The windfarm is now smaller, more compact and has a much shorter carbon payback period.”
The carbon payback estimate is likely to provoke deep scepticism from some of the project’s many opponents, but the explanation given is that the original carbon payback estimate was calculated using a standard government model.
In a press statement, Viking Energy said: “Further research has now been carried out in the central Mainland area which shows that the deteriorating condition of the majority of the peat means that it is currently emitting rather than storing carbon.
“This practical survey work, combined with further assessments using the methodology reviewed by the MacAulay Institute means that, even in the worst case scenario, the carbon payback time will be less than one year.”
The addendum is designed to augment the information contained within the original application and will be formally advertised in the next two editions of The Shetland Times. After that a six-week consultation period will begin, with the SIC given a further four weeks to deliver its response before the section 36 consent application is finally submitted to Scottish ministers.
2011 is expected to be the crucial year with decisions on planning consent and whether Shetland Charitable Trust will invest in the venture, as well as whether the interconnector cable will be sanctioned by the electricity regulator.
Viking hopes the windfarm will be completed by 2018 at the latest, providing 42 full-time jobs and a further 23 in support services.
You can read the full addendum here.