Viking Energy’s controversial windfarm looks set to be reduced in size once more due to Scatsa Airport operator Serco’s fears over aircraft safety.
The consent application in November 2010 for 127 turbines was itself slimmed down from an initial 192 turbines when the development was first mooted. Now it is understood Viking Energy has concluded a further reduction is unavoidable, and could possibly be stripped back to 103.
The application is with the Scottish government’s energy consents unit, but it will not give its verdict until discussions between the developer and Scottish Natural Heritage over the impact on birds have concluded. Viking Energy is hoping to bring the SNH talks to a close shortly following a summer-long dialogue on the turbines’ potential impact on the endangered whimbrel population.
Project co-ordinator Allan Wishart told The Shetland Times he could not confirm the number of turbines to be stripped, or whether that would mean increasing the size of the remaining turbines.
“We’ve been discussing with Scatsta for months and months about their approaches and their radar,” he said. “It’s always been a possibility there will be ones that have to be removed and it’s one of the possibilities we’re discussing with Scatsta.”
Because talks with Scatsta were still ongoing, Mr Wishart was not prepared to comment on the precise details: “We’re in the process of discussing these things – it is the subject of discussions with the operators. They have a lot of consultation to do with their advisers, CAA, their own customers and so on.”
With regard to the talks with SNH, which has objected to the application and wants 17 turbines removed from the Lang Kames, Mr Wishart said: “We have provided a lot of clarification and verification of the figures that we’ve put in, explaining a lot of detail about how our ornithologists have come up with the figures that they have, technical data on distance of flights, timing of flights, routes, nesting grounds and so on.
“There has to come a point, if we and SNH can’t come together closer on it, of course at some stage we’ve got to say ‘that’s it, we’ve provided all the clarification we possibly can for our view and understanding of the whimbrel situation’.
“Obviously any changes to the layout or removal of turbines could have an impact on whimbrel numbers as well. It appears that two whimbrel continue to be a stumbling block for them.”
SNH local area manager John Uttley said the organisation’s objection still stood due to the whimbrel issue and the impact on the landscape. But he said the talks had to some extent been “thrown up in the air by the changes” to turbine numbers near Scatsta, some of which could alter the development’s consequences for whimbrel.
“Last time we met we agreed there were still some issues we could probably get to the bottom of,” Mr Uttley said. “It’s possible some of the differences between us will be resolved. If they want to ask the energy consents unit to determine it, essentially, they’re at liberty to do that.”