Communities could get cash windfall from Viking project, says co-operative chairman Hunter
Investments, loans and donations worth more than £2 million a year could result once the Viking Energy windfarm is built, according to the chairman of a co-operative group formed by Shetland’s community councils.
Bobby Hunter, who in December was installed as chairman of the Shetland Community Benefit Fund Co-operative, said the group was looking forward to holding talks with Viking Energy to set out a “realistic agreement” for a community benefit scheme.
Viking Energy was last week given consent for a 103-turbine windfarm which can theoretically generate up to 457 megawatts (MWs) of power.
Mr Hunter drew attention to the Scottish government’s recommendation that communities should get £5,000 per MW, as adopted by the Forestry Commission and Highland Council. The income would be separate from any profit generated for the charitable trust through its 45 per cent shareholding.
“You only need to compare these figures with the agreed size of the windfarm to see the tremendous potential for the islands,” he said.
Mr Hunter said the payment was based on every MW installed, as opposed to every MW produced, so “you’d expect it to be as good if not better” in Shetland given the turbines are expected to be significantly more productive here than elsewhere in the country.
Based on a payment of £5,000 for every megawatt, the co-operative could in theory find £2,285,000 a year flowing into its coffers. In addition, Mr Hunter says a one-off up-front disturbance payment of around £1 million could be in the offing.
The co-operative is the result of all Shetland’s 18 community councils clubbing together to find a way of managing and distributing income from a community benefit scheme. They have agreed that all parts of the islands must benefit, with the areas most directly affected receiving a greater share.
It is “totally separate” from Shetland Islands Council and Mr Hunter says the co-operative will seek to support a wide range of activities and developments throughout the islands. It is able to invest, loan or donate to any commercial community or charitable cause it chooses as it is not a charity and is “therefore free of the tight constraints the Shetland Charitable Trust now finds itself caught up in”.
The co-operative is drawing up a scheme to share part of the income among all the island’s community councils, and says it will also produce its own development policies “which will be used when considering applications for financial support for projects which might be small and based in a local community, or a much bigger Shetland-wide project”.
The co-operative hopes to open discussions with Viking Energy about the nature of community benefit payments in the coming weeks. You can read more about the organisation at www.shetland-communities.org.uk/subsites/vas.
• Meanwhile the charitable trust will consider at a meeting on Monday whether to invest further millions in the windfarm, which would take the project up to the construction stage. An updated report is due to be published tomorrow.
Anti-Viking Energy group Sustainable Shetland is holding a meeting tonight to discuss its response to the Scottish government’s approval of the project, which has sparked fresh anger from those opposed to the development.