Biomass plant for Yell leisure centre and school approved by councillors

Plans to install a biomass heating system in Yell to serve the isle’s leisure centre and school were given the go-ahead today despite fears it could scupper another energy scheme.

The successful application to site the biomass heat cabin behind the Mid Yell Leisure Centre was made by Northfish (Shetland) Ltd. Biomass, which uses sustainably sourced fuel, is a new type of heating system for Shetland and the leisure centre and adjacent school are likely to be the first to have it.

The application was granted in spite of an objection by Yell Community Council, which wrote to the planning department to express support for the Mid Yell Development Council. The MYDC has been working for several years on a project to install a district heating scheme in Mid Yell using alternative energy.

As the community council supports community development, it felt it could not support the biomass proposal as it could jeopardise the ongoing project by the MYDC.

However planning official Jonny Wiseman, speaking at a meeting of the council’s planning department, recommended approval. The cabin would be appropriately designed, being clad with larch wood to match the school, and sited almost unnoticed next to the leisure centre’s plant room, causing no environmental impact.

The development would also comply with the council’s aims for energy produced from sustainable resources. Fuel for the heating process would be sourced from managed forests for processing locally, or from certified producers on the mainland.

Northfish director Angus Grains said his company had been looking for customers for the biomass which will be produced at the company’s new energy plant at Gremista. Planning permission for this plant was granted before Christmas.

Mr Grains said he had approached users of kerosene to see if they would be keen on switching to biomass, and the Yell project would be the first one. On questioning by North Isles councillor Laura Baisley, he said Yell was chosen at the instigation of Shetland Recreational Trust, which was interested in biomass and proposed the Yell site, in which the leisure centre supplies heat to the school. Northfish hopes to have other “large users” throughout the isles, he added.

Mr Grains said biomass represented a 100 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and a much lower cost than kerosene. The technology had been around for at least 10 years and was widely used in Finland and Sweden. He said: “It’s not black magic. It’s tried and tested equipment.” The process was “very clean-burning”, he said, with one month of burning producing only one bucket of ash. He also said that he did not see that his proposed development would hinder other renewable enterprises in the Mid Yell area.

Lerwick North councillor Caroline Miller called it an “excellent project” and moved recommendation, with Shetland South councillor Jim Budge seconding.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Baisley said although there was no material planning objection, she felt “sympathy” for the Mid Yell Development Council which had already put in years of work.


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