Shetland could invest up to £7 million in three large wind turbines planned for Gremista by Scottish and Southern Energy. The power company has offered the community the chance to own up to 50 per cent of the 6.9 MegaWatt venture, which is part of the innovative Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project.
As well as a potentially good income the 2.3 MW turbines could provide valuable experience of owning and operating a windfarm, which could be useful if the half-locally owned Viking Energy windfarm goes ahead.
Shetland Charitable Trust, which owns 45 per cent of the Viking Partnership, and Shetland Islands Council, are still assessing the offer from SSE Renewables to invest, either together or individually, in up to half the estimated £10-14 million cost of the windfarm.
It is to be built at Luggie’s Knowe on Lerwick Port Authority land between the Dales Voe base and the council dump.
More detailed information is awaited before the proposal can be considered by councillors and trustees, such as whether all the turbines’ output could be used in the absence of an interconnector cable to sell it to customers on the mainland.
Charitable trust trustees have been told to expect a report in early 2012 about investing in the aerogenerators. A report to the last trust meeting from financial controller Jeff Goddard stated: “Discussions are ongoing at officer level as to whether one or both of SCT or SIC might be interested.”
He continued: “The co-investor or co-investors will receive half the profits from the aerogenerators. I expect to have enough information to complete my financial modelling and report to trustees early in the new year.”
The Luggie’s Knowe planning application is currently with the council’s planning division and is due to be considered at a meeting of the planning board in February.
As well as sharing in the profits from selling electricity if it becomes a part-owner, the Shetland community would benefit anyway from payments of around £168,500 a year, based on SSE’s policy of paying out around £2,500 per MW for new onshore windfarms built from 1st January 2012.
The turbines started off in much smaller form as a council idea in 2008 to provide up to 1.6MW of power to the incinerator, to heat more hot water to expand Lerwick’s district heating scheme and to make hydrogen for fuelling council vehicles. But they were eventually taken on and expanded by SSE. While it is offering part-ownership, it is understood that it would be a wholly SSE-run project whereas Viking is a joint venture.
The turbines are one part of SSE’s pioneering NINES project to adapt Shetland’s electricity grid so that more of the variable amounts of power that come from wind turbines and other renewables can fed in, reducing the islands’ reliance on diesel being burnt in Lerwick Power Station.
The charitable trust and the council are already financially involved in the £34 million NINES project. Power from the wind turbines would heat a new £2 million giant 4MW water tank or “kettle” planned by the charitable trust’s company Shetland Heat Energy and Power, which runs the district heating. It has been called a wind-to-heat scheme in the same way that burning rubbish in the incinerator and heating Lerwick with the hot water was called the waste-to-heat scheme.
The council is also investing in new Dimplex storage heaters for hundreds of council houses, which will be able to soak up power generated by the wind turbines at off-peak times for release when the tenants want it. In partnership with Hjaltland Housing Association and its tenants the council has secured a £1.3 million EU grant towards the new heaters.
The most infamous part of NINEs is Europe’s biggest battery, the 1MW sodium sulphur (NaS) unit which has been installed in a specially built large shed next to Lerwick Power Station. SSE is not allowed to use it until it is shown to be safe following the latest serious fire in a similar NaS battery in Japan.
SSE communications manager Jennifer McGregor revealed in an article recently that the battery cost around £5 million, including £1 million each from the British government and the electricity regulator Ofgem.
Publicly, SSE has given mixed messages about whether or not the turbines would connect to the local grid. During the public consultation phase it was made clear they were to be off-grid. But, according to SSE’s project consultants Amec, the turbines might feed into the grid as well as connecting up to the district heating water tanks.
Sceptics of the wind turbine plan question what the excess wind power would be used for even if they are connected into the grid. When Shetland’s electricity demand is low, particularly during summer time when homes and other buildings in the town do not need much heating, they may need to be switched off, it has been suggested.
SSE wants to erect the turbines in 2012, taking about six months. If the Viking project was to receive consent from the Scottish government in the next few months it could make the council and/or charitable trust’s investment decision easier, given that no large windfarm has failed to go ahead in Scotland once government approval is received. In other words, approval would mean an interconnector cable to the Scottish mainland and therefore a ready market for all the wind power Shetland can generate.
The Gremista turbines will stand 121 metres to the tips of their blades – not far short of the 145-metre reach of Viking’s proposed machines and a full 50 metres higher than the Burradale machines. But they raised no objections from anti-windfarm campaigners or from the anti-Viking movement Sustainable Shetland.
The turbines would give islanders a preview of what Viking’s proposed turbines will look like sitting on the landscape as well as providing an early insight into the commotion and mess that carving roads into the hills and laying large concrete foundations will have, both on the people themselves and the environment.
SSE will have to build access tracks, borrow pits, crane pads, turbine bases, a control building and a temporary construction compound. The job is expected to take around six months.
Amec concluded there would be no significant effects on birds, the bog and grassland or local people. The turbines will be most noticeable within five kilometres and people living in 21 properties within three kilometres, in Califf, Breiwick and Gunnista in Bressay, would experience “notable visual effects”.
The nearest house is a mere 1.1km away. However, the turbines would “not significantly affect the overall visual amenity of these properties by being over-shadowing, visual dominance or oppressiveness”. According to Amec, noise should not be an issue either.
The full environmental statement is available for inspection at the Town Hall.