The development of a large wind farm in Yell crossed its latest hurdle by winning the approval of Shetland Islands Council planning committee.
The committee considered an “excellent report” by Amy Melkevik recommending that it approve the 17 turbine, 57.8 mW, wind farm, which has been reclassified by the developers as “large” rather than “very large” owing to advances in turbine technology.
But a bid by councillor Billy Fox to have an objection by Scatsta Airport operators Serco amplified by including it as a council condition was watered down.
The report lists 50 conditions that developer of Beaw Field Wind Farm, Peel Wind Farms (Yell), has to meet as part of the planning recommendation, which goes to the Electricity Consents Unit for further consideration, before being passed to Scottish ministers for a final decision. The SIC is a consultee in the process, but will bear much of the planning costs and responsibilities.
Afterwards Peel Wind Farms development director Bernadette Barry said that she was pleased the development had passed the latest of four statutory consultations without a single objection.
She said: “It is the next step in the process and it now goes to the Energy Consents Unit.
“We are pleased by the outcome but there is still a long way to go. The council had a lot of work to do to get to that stage.”
The abolition of the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the “take over” of the Tory government had not served to expedite the development, she added.
But she acknowledged that the fate of the wind farm hinged on the provision of an HVDC (high voltage direct current) link, which in turn would appear to rely on the Viking Wind Farm striking a deal with Westminster to supply electricity to the National Grid.
The committee heard it would fall upon local planning officials to ensure that the 50 conditions were adhered to, but were encouraged that a dedicated “environmental clerk of works” would be appointed to make sure the developers addressed any environmental issues.
Committee members were shown a series of artist’s impressions of the wind farm that showed visual impact, which is not a strict planning concern, would be largely within five kilometres of the site, and largely at the back of houses which would have their sea views unaffected.
Ms Barry also gave assurances that the turbines would be shut down during times when “shadow flicker” could be seen, and these were “very predictable” and would only have a minor effect on the farm’s output.
Councillor Fox had questioned the viability of the farm if it was shut down during these periods and said he feared that commercial pressure would mean the developers failing to address shadow flicker.
But Ms Barry insisted this was not so and also fielded Mr Fox’s claim that difficulties with Scatsta Airport, which has objected to the plan, would be close to insurmountable.
She said that Peel Energy, which had much experience in dealing with air operations throughout the UK, had been in discussion with Serco and was certain that technical solutions could be put in place that would mitigate any problems Serco had identified.
Nonetheless Mr Fox attempted to have the satisfaction of Serco’s objections listed as an additional condition, as the SIC should seek to safeguard oil and gas operations as being a “significant thing in terms of national importance”.
Mr Fox said that he was also concerned that the SIC had only one planning enforcement officer and he was “hard pressed” to deal with things on the “domestic level”.
He also questioned the level of community payback, saying that a figure of £375,000 (based on £5,000) per mW, should in fact be £289,000. But Ms Barry said that the downsized windfarm (it had been originally planned to be up to 100mW in size) had been slated to provide £250,000 in community benefit.
She also said that the company planned to restore eroded blanket peat bog using peat excavated in developing the site.
Condition two of the council’s report calls for the developers to have details of financial provision in place for demolition and restoration of the site once it comes to the end of its life.
Another condition to be added was that, prior to commencement, the developer shows the planning authority that a proposal is in place to cover any additional damage to roads in Yell that are caused by construction of the wind farm.