Viking ignores facts

Just to clear up Erik Smith’s misunderstanding of my letter to The Scotsman. My summary of Viking Energy’s plans was very much understated to make the letter as short as possible. Since he has obviously not read Viking’s environmental statement and addendum he may like to know a few of the details.

Roads: 104 kilometres of 10-metre and six-metre wide access roads capable of taking 130-tonne loads and 55-metre long trailers. This is the most invasive activity to a fragile landscape imaginable. Most of the Viking Energy windfarm area has no existing hill tracks or roads and certainly not of these dimensions. The widest trunk road (A970) in Shetland is 7.3 metres, while most single track roads are only made about three metres wide because of the deep and extensive blanket bog in the areas they cross.

Quarries: 13 large rock quarries, most will need to be 30 metres deep and eight will be over one hectare in size, and three of these over two hectares making the total quarried area at least 17.8 hectares. The quantity of aggregate extracted will be 1.47 million cubic metres by blasting and drilling; rock transport by possibly hundreds of heavy dump trucks, etc.

Viking seems to have ignored the fact that large volumes of bedrock are likely to be heavily fractured and weathered; firstly by immediate post glacial freeze-thaw actions then by acid groundwater from overlying blanket bog. This “rotten rock” may well extend to a depth of many tens of metres.

Such rotten rock is un-usable for construction and large volumes would need to be extracted and dumped before useful quarrying can begin. So called “restoration” will be back-filling quarries with excavated peat to a depth of nearly two metres. This will apparently involve drying out and mixing “dry” and “wet” peat, and there is no guarantee that any vegetation will be restored.

Turbine bases: the 127 turbine bases and hard standing each contain 2,500 tonnes of concrete to be emplaced by long convoys of huge batch pouring trucks. Cutting 127 turbine base quarries into the hill ridges, each filled with 2,500 tonnes of concrete, will exacerbate erosion due to dieback of vegetation from alkali run-off leached from the concrete by the acidic groundwater.

In the addendum ornithology section Viking Energy claims that some two-thirds of the blanket bog in the windfarm area is in poor condition because of over-grazing. Incredible as it may seem, the source for this statement seems to be work that was done on a small area of bare peat on the Mid-Kame between 1982 and 1985. From this report (Birnie, 1993) it can be seen that its methodology and purpose was to give an approximation of the erosion caused by sheep stocking levels 25 years ago.

Viking Energy has made some quite extraordinary extrapolations from this 25-year-old work and no account appears to have been taken of stock reduction and considerable changes which have happened on most of the hills in Shetland since then. Even in the environmental statement a close examination of the work (“Phase 1 Habitat Survey” done by Highland Ecology) shows that nowhere near two-thirds of the windfarm area is actually eroding. There is no evidence presented in the addendum that shows otherwise.

Peat slides: during the last year four peat slides have occurred in the Central Mainland and two of these were within the windfarm area but the addendum states: “No amendment made to peat stability report. Original report fit for purpose.” The BGS risk assessment is based on peat stability not on increased likelihood of rainstorms. Construction and operation of the windfarm will make the likelihood of peat-slide much worse so putting property and lives at risk.

In its deliberations Viking Energy has not collected rainfall data from across the area but has used historical data from Lerwick Observatory and assumed that this data will apply to the windfarm area. This is a flawed assumption; due to frontal topographic enhancement of rainfall and higher summer convective totals, the rainfall in the windfarm area may be as much as 30 per cent higher. Given the type of drainage in the area and the fragility of the environment this is a dangerous omission, particularly when designing artificial drainage and bunds.

Thus Viking Energy has made little serious attempt to address hydrology and drainage. Without any scientific or technological method it has assumed a maximum drainage effect from infrastructure now of 50 metres, instead of 100 metres, as used in the environmental statement.

The peat extracted from building the oil terminal and dumped in Orka Voe will stay there because it is at sea level and gravity and run-off can’t take it anywhere.

The Central Mainland hills have a complex drainage system from blanket bog feeding north-south watercourses that drain into voes. Superimposed and cutting across this highly complex hydrology will be the access roads, turbine hard stands, quarries and peat-backfilled quarries etc.

If Viking Energy has not properly addressed the hydrology and peat stability then the million cubic metres of peat excavated may also find its way into the burns, lochs and voes around the Central Mainland with pretty dire consequences.

Viking Energy has not put forward any decommissioning plan and has not demonstrated how the severely damaged hydrology and habitats can be restored; especially if it intends to leave the roads and turbine bases in-situ with all the drains blocked. Long term erosion problems such as alkali run-off that has been ignored by the developer may still be active a thousand years from now. As far as I know attempts to restore hydrology and habitats damaged by infrastructure elsewhere on Shetland have failed and this is evident on Mossy Hill and Ward of Scousburgh.

Just to cover a few other of Mr Smith’s relevant concerns. I didn’t mention any perceived “benefits” from the windfarm because I don’t want to endorse reckless gambling of community money on a climate change subsidy. As far as I know no other energy provider has signed up to use the cable and converter station and I would have thought is unlikely to do so since it is to be built in Kergord exclusively for Viking Energy.

I should also add that my letter to The Scotsman was written on my own behalf and not on behalf of some Luddite party that could only exist in the dark depths of a very paranoiac mind.

Allen Fraser


Add Your Comment
  • Brian Smith

    • February 22nd, 2011 18:35

    This letter is far too long, Allen. In fact, anything negative about Viking Energy – letters, public meetings, marches – are unacceptable.


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