Potential wind power schemes in Shetland received a boost on Friday with the announcement of a new consultation on less established renewable technologies.
Remote island projects will be able to apply for a “Contract for Difference” (CfD) in the next competitive auction (subject to state aid approval).
Wind projects in places such as Shetland obviously have great potential due to the strong winds and the opportunity to bring employment and benefit local supply chains.
However, they also face higher costs due to their location and transmission requirements, which set them apart from onshore projects elsewhere in Britain.
The UK government announced up to £557 million for future auctions in its Clean Growth Strategy and intends for these changes to be implemented, so that island wind projects can compete in the next auction, planned for the spring of 2019. The consultation will also seek views on how island communities can benefit from these projects.
According to the government its last auction proved the benefits of its competitive approach and saw the cost of new offshore wind fall by as much as 50 per cent.
If a sufficient number of projects are successful it should enable the construction of new transmission links, which could deliver a range of wider and longer-term benefits and cost savings to the renewables industry and to the island economies.
In Shetland the Viking Energy project, which would include over 100 turbines in the Central Mainland, remains the single biggest proposal.
Other plans are for the Yell Wind Farm in northwest Yell (63 turbines), the Beaw Field windfarm near Burravoe in Yell (17 turbines), Peel Energy’s Mossy Hill windfarm between Lerwick and Scalloway (21 turbines).
Combined with the already established Burradale and Garth schemes it would amount to well over 200 turbines covering the Mainland and Yell.
Viking Energy head of development Aaron Priest welcomed Friday’s statement from UK ministers which he said was good news for Shetland.
Mr Priest said: “It remains vital for Shetland’s economic future that we’re allowed the chance to diversify and develop a renewable energy industry. Shetland has a proven world-class wind, wave and tidal energy resource and the Shetland community should get to use it to generate vital new jobs and income.
“This is the next tangible step from the government in implementing its decision to allow island projects to participate in the next CfD round. Engagement on the detail remains ongoing.”
UK energy minister Richard Harrington said: “We’ve placed clean growth at the heart of our new industrial strategy. We are cutting emissions while keeping costs down for consumers, creating high value jobs and growing the economy.
“We are delivering on our commitment to support remote island wind projects, which have the potential to benefit local communities.”
Parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland Lord Duncan said: “Wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland have the potential to generate substantial amounts of electricity and cut emissions, supporting economic growth and delivering lasting benefits for communities.
“Enabling these projects to compete in future auctions will reinforce the UK’s position as a world leader in renewable generation, as well as providing Scottish jobs in any projects supported.
“I urge local communities, developers and other stakeholders to work together to ensure that such projects deliver lasting benefits to the islands.”
A 2013 report for the UK and Scottish governments concluded that wind projects in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles could supply around three per cent of the UK’s total electricity demand.
More than 750MW of wind projects with planning consent in these areas could be eligible for the next auction.
The consultation also asks for views on other changes the government is considering making to the CfD scheme, to enable it to continue to support new generation and provide best value for bill payers in coming years.
These changes include proposals to increase the efficiency requirements for Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and Advanced Conversion Technologies (ACT) as technology improves. This ensures that only sufficiently advanced and efficient plants are awarded subsidy.
Changes are also proposed to ensure that costs of future projects can be accurately forecasted and that future schemes continue to drive carbon emission reductions.