Crofters have been turning out to meetings with Viking Energy this week to hear about payments of around £4 million a year they could benefit from when the windfarm is built.
Over 340 crofters are expected to get annual payments which will vary depending on whether the land is actually used to site turbines or forms part of a wider area of the hill to be looked after under the company’s elaborate habitat management plan.
Around 180 of the crofters are expected to earn the big payments for hosting turbines on their common grazings.
If Viking decides to install higher-capacity 4.5 megawatt turbines a payout is being offered for each turbine at £5,500 a year plus an as-yet-undisclosed percentage of the gross revenue earned by the 103-turbine windfarm.
Opting for the smaller 3.6MW turbines would see an annual payment of £4,125 each plus the share of revenue.
Another 160 with crofting rights in the wider area of the habitat management plan would receive an annual fee of £10 per hectare. Crofting activities will be mainly unaffected by the habitat work but Viking said some crofters may be asked to make slight adjustments to their working practices.
Hosting a construction compound on croft land while the windfarm is built would attract £2,500 a year.
The suggested fees still have to be put before the Scottish Land Court later this year as part of a so-called scheme for development. The application to the land court ensures crofters’ interests are safeguarded and reasonable compensation payments are made.
The proposed fees were discussed with crofters at briefing sessions this week in halls in Walls, North Nesting and Voe with Bixter tonight and a final one in South Nesting on Friday.
The exhibitions have also provided information about the construction of the windfarm, which has been the subject of some anxiety due to anticipated disruption.
Invitations to the events were issued to all the crofters involved, where they are known, and to all the clerks of the relevant grazings committees.
Viking said that at this stage there could still be some crofters whose entitlement to payments is not known about.
When the windfarm was approved in April, permitting up to 457MW of generation, part of the conditions of consent was the habitat management plan. It is intended to minimise the effects of the windfarm on birds such as whimbrel, merlin and red-throated divers.
It will also help address peat erosion which is already a serious problem in parts of Shetland, including the hilltops of the central mainland.
Crofters have been told this week that they could be involved in a range of measures including crow control and wetting up small areas of land to benefit nesting birds.
Figures for how the landowners will benefit have not been disclosed but previously Viking has said they would earn the same amount, around £4m a year, split between the council-owned Busta Estate and a number of private estates and small landowners. Prior to the windfarm being downsized these included the estates of Vementry, Zetland, Burrastow, Symbister and Sumburgh.