The Viking Energy windfarm has been approved by Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing, it was announced this morning.
However it will comprise 103 turbines and not 127 as proposed after the government witheld consent for 24 turbines near Scatsta Airport. The Civil Aviation authority had said they would interfere with aircraft instruments.
Anti-windfarm campaigners had hoped the minister would refuse the application by the Viking Energy Partnership (VEP) – Shetland Charitable Trust, the owners of the Burradale windfarm and energy giant SSE – or at the very least order a public inquiry.
But in a statement Mr Ewing said: “This windfarm will bring enormous benefits to the people of Shetland, generating more than £30 million annual income for the entire Shetland community. Around £20 million of that will go directly to the Shetland Charitable Trust.
“The development will create jobs and bring income, and makes the case for an interconnector to connect Shetland for the first time to the National Grid – paving the way for more exports and further renewable energy opportunities for the Islands, including community projects and marine energy developments.
“The development includes an extensive habitat management plan covering around 12,800 acres, which will restore peatland and offer benefits to a whole range of species and habitats.”
The 370MW windfarm, comprising turbines up to 145m tall, will be the third biggest in Scotland and Mr Ewing said it would power more than 175,000 households, 16 times the number in Shetland.
He said it would require £566 million of capital expenditure and yield 140 jobs during construction and 34 when operational. He said he expected Viking to “maximise the potential for local employment and use of local businesses”.
The windfarm will allow the construction of an interconnector allowing Shetland to export electricity to the mainland, opening up further opportunities for the islands to benefit from renewables, including community schemes and marine renewables.
It is the 50th renewable energy project consented by Scottish ministers since May 2007.
Mr Ewing said: “Last week, figures showed Scotland exceeded our ambitious renewable electricity targets for 2011, with more than a third of our electricity demand coming from renewables.
“Developments like Viking will help us meet our 2020 target, and will make a huge contribution to our target of 500MW from community and locally-owned renewable energy by 2020, while benefiting communities, cutting emissions, and helping to keep energy bills lower.”
VEP first applied for permission for 150 turbines in May 2009. It then submitted a supplementary application seeking permission for 127 turbines. The Scottish government’s energy consents unit, which handles such applications, received 2,772 objections to the project and 1,115 notices of support.
In a report for members of the charitable trust last week, which was withdrawn at the last minute from the meeting, trust financial controller Jeff Goddard said it would be another 18 months to two years before work began on the project to allow time for finalising connection and transmission charging, procurement and construction contracts, turbine warranty and maintenance, long-term trading deals for the electricity output, debt arrangements, payments for land use and further ground investigation work.