Sumburgh Head solar panel plan

A request to site solar panels at Sumburgh Head near an area frequented by migrant birds will be considered by the council’s planning board this week.

Shetland Amenity Trust’s application has been recommended by planning officials for approval, subject to conditions.

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.
Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.

The proposed site is on the seaward side of the lighthouse complex, at Shetland mainland’s southernmost tip. It is part of the lighthouse property, in which the buildings are category A listed as being of national significance.

The complex is undergoing a £5.4 million refurbishment, aimed at turning it into what amenity trust boss Jimmy Moncrieff hopes will be a “world class tourist attraction” by next year.

Concerns about the installation of 48 ground-mounted solar panels have focused on the impact on birds, the effect on the view and the possible reflection from the panels which could distract pilots on the approach to Sumburgh Airport.

RSPB has not so far responded to the application, but the Shetland Bird Club and Shetland Biological Records Centre stress the importance of the area, and want reassurance that planting will take place for migrating birds, and “informal access” for the public will stay.

Historic Scotland said: “It is clear the panels will be a significant visual intervention in the historic curtilage of the lighthouse complex,” but decided they would not be “overly dominant”.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd found it had few grounds for objection when the amenity trust indicated the type of panels proposed would absorb 97 per cent of the light from the sun and at most reflect only 10 per cent.

The redevelopment of the area incorporates various other “green” features, including a ground source heat pump.


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