Power station opens its doors

Lerwick Power Station opened its doors to the public today, giving folk the chance to see what happens behind the scenes.

The event, which attracted visitors young and old, was the first open day since 1996.

Donning hard hats and stuffing in earplugs, there was the chance to see the huge electricity generators, control room and service vehicles.

Staff were also on hand to explain the different types of wiring used in Shetland, with some electricity cables in Lerwick still operating after 70 years.

The power station in Gremista is operated by Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) and is owned by Scottish and Southern Electric.

With Shetland having no connection to the UK National Grid, the majority of electricity in the isles is provided by the power station.

Visitors were allowed to explore the two parts of LPS – the ‘A’ and ‘B’ stations.

Opened in 1953, A station has six diesel engines and generators which run on medium fuel oil. Generators there date back to the 1970s.

Fuel is brought in from Denmark and from Peterson SBS. Some engines have clocked up more than 100,000 running hours.

Generator three for example, commissioned in 1973, has notched up 107,445 hours, using diesel and medium fuel oil. It consumes 1,000 litres per hour and has used 107,445,000 litres.

Shetland operations manager Darren Hitchin said about 25,000 tonnes of fuel per year is imported.

The larger B station was built in 1983 with two 8MW engines and a 12MW engine installed in 1994 – all three run on heavy fuel oil.

A normal house uses about 10 kilowatts, said Mr Hitchin with the two engines having a maximum output of 8,000 kilowatts each.

B station was more efficient, he added, and has waste heat boilers which in turn run a 2.1MW turbine.

The total output of the station is about 67MW and at any one time, the A and B stations cover about 60 per cent of Shetland’s demands.

The rest is made up from the power station at Sullom Voe and Burradale Windfarm.

The station has generated more than a million hours of electricity for Shetland to date.

B station was the “main work horse for power in Shetland,” said Mr Hitchin. A station is used as a top up and renewable power fed in when available.

Meanwhile a proposed new power station for Shetland to be built near Rova Head is still on hold.

A proposal was made by SHEPD last year, which included a “dual fuel” power station – using light fuel initially, but it could use natural gas from Sullom Voe. It also included how the station would work with the Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project and renewable energy generation in Shetland.

Both the SIC and the Scottish government backed the plans, with the Scottish government granting planning consent for the £200 million replacement in August. The plant would have a generating capacity of up to 120MW.

Ofgem has asked SHEPD to carry out a public consultation, followed by an open and competitive process to make sure the lowest cost and most efficient solution is found.

SHEPD spokesman Gavin Steel said a consultation will be held “in the next couple of months” – with the public being given the chance to put forward their views on energy solutions for Shetland.

“People [should] look out for details, probably just the other side of the October break,” said Mr Steel

There was also an opportunity for companies in Shetland and further afield to give their feedback.

“Because Ofgem want the process to be as open as possible we certainly won’t be prescribing any options in the consultation,”  he added.

“We will be talking about what’s needed, and trying to define a process that makes sure that whatever technology emerges, it can meet the expectations of our customers in Shetland, and provide a secure supply of electricity, whilst giving the best possible value to consumers.”

Previously SHEPD had proposed that the current plant would close in 2017, as part of its integrated plan.

Electricity generation as a whole on the site was coming towards the end of its operational life, said Mr Steel.

But because of this extra process, closure was “likely to be a bit later than that”.

“When we come to the consultation, the timescale on which we anticipate we can move forward now will be part of that,” he said.

“We will be looking to move forward as soon as we can.”

Staff were working to make sure the site served Shetland for as long as it needed to, he said.

“Ofgem and ourselves are working together to prepare this consultation.

“We are both committed to identifying a solution that can be delivered and working closely together to achieve that.”


Add Your Comment
  • Alan Campbell

    • October 13th, 2014 15:53

    Fascinating insight. Thank you. My roots are Campbelton, but I live in Penticton BC Western Canada. We have a huge debate going on about whether to dam the Peace River again, or go natural gas generation. People in the Vancouver area just flick their wall switches with no concept about how the power gets there! Thank you for the article. My interest was spurred by the TV series “Shetland”.

  • Ali Inkster

    • October 31st, 2014 11:40

    With the need for a new power station, surely the only long term solution is to utilise the infrastructure at Sullom, there are two power stations there already utilising gas direct from offshore fields, it would be a simple matter to install another turbine and upgrade the grid. This would mean that power generation would be located in close proximity to Yell sound and likewise Bluemull sound. If we are serious about renewables then surely these two sources of regular predictable energy must be primary to our plans.

    • John Tulloch

      • October 31st, 2014 13:46

      As usual, regulations and bureaucracy are likely to get in the way of sense because somebody has to accept responsibility for security of supply and the oil companies will likely wish to switch off supply if a conflict arises between maintaining production and keeping the lights on in Shetland.

      Whoever accepts responsibility has to have enough plant to provide a secure supply and it’s getting people to sign on to that which is part of the problem.

      I don’t know how the cost of bringing a gas line from Sullom to Lerwick compares with installing overhead lines, probably more expensive, but it would have the advantages of being immune to the weather and opening the possibility of gas supplies for a range of purposes in Lerwick and places like Brae and Scalloway, along the way.

      • Ali Inkster

        • October 31st, 2014 16:08

        Unless it is heavily subsidised the laying of a gas main to residential properties is a non starter. An independent Shetland could easily afford to underwrite it but the chances of getting edinburgh or westminster letting us have enough of a rebate to fund this is non existent.

      • John Tulloch

        • November 1st, 2014 9:06

        Ali, I agree it would be very expensive to run gas mains widely but if it comes to Lerwick, anyway, for the power station, there’s surely a possibility of doing it commercially, in Lerwick itself, if nowhere else.

        I would have thought it would be possible to supply major buildings along the way, too, like the Brae hotels, swimming pool, schools, etc.

        That would reduce the electricity demand which is one of OFGEM’s consultation aims, not to mention, reducing Shetland’s oil imports. so there may be some scope for subsidy, too.

        And gas direct from Sullom should surely be very cheap, compared to gas or oil imported from the mainland, or electricity.

        It would also serve to keep down the price of the district heating system by using it to replace oil as the source of supplementary heat, although, if the new power station is designed to integrate with the scheme, there should be heat aplenty from there, especially, if, as we now suspect, there’s political backsliding on the grid interconnector.

    • John N Hunter

      • October 31st, 2014 16:10

      I asked some of the Hydro representatives at one of the open sessions they had about the new power station about relocating all power generation to Sullom Voe. According to them the cost of moving all the distribution hardware would be prohibitive. Plus Lerwick is much more central for distributing power to the rest of Shetland.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 31st, 2014 21:44

    “I asked some of the Hydro representatives at one of the open sessions they had about the new power station about relocating all power generation to Sullom Voe. According to them the cost of moving all the distribution hardware would be prohibitive.” Did you really believe that, John N Hunter? I do not. Some fat cats would love us to believe that. Next time, ask why the costs would be prohibitive.

  • Ali Inkster

    • November 1st, 2014 10:13

    I would say it has more to do with power generated at sullom does not have to be purchased from SSE and they would lose their monopoly


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