29th January 2020
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Sustainable makes plea to councillors over Viking’s plans to increase turbine size

The vice-chairman of Sustainable Shetland has reiterated his plea to councillors not to back Viking Energy’s plans to increase the maximum size of its proposed turbines.

James MacKenzie has spoken ahead of this week’s full council meeting, where the controversial proposals are due to be discussed.

Viking Energy is seeking to increase the height of the proposed 103 turbines by 10 metres to a maximum of 155 metres.

Last week members of Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee refused to decide on the application and called for the proposals to go before full council on Wednesday.

In the meantime, Mr MacKenzie has highlighted a risk of peat slides as an argument against the development.

In a letter to this newspaper, Mr MacKenzie referred to a “checking report” prepared for the Energy Consents Unit by Andy Mills.

“Dr Mills’ report concerns the issue of peat slides, which are known to occur in Shetland with increasing frequency and with potentially devastating, even life-threatening, consequences,” Mr MacKenzie stated.

“It is of great significance that new Scottish government guidelines on peat stability assessment (PSA) issued in 2017 recognise the special characteristics of peat.”

Mr MacKenzie pointed to an extract from the guidelines.

He said it implied “that the original PSA supplied by Viking Energy in its 2009 Environmental Impact Assessment and submitted, without amendment, for its variation application is inappropriate and/or unreliable”.

Mr MacKenzie said it was estimated that Scotland’s peatlands held “approximately 50 per cent” of the UK’s total soil carbon store, adding “the potential impacts of windfarm developments must be considered alongside their potential benefits”.

He added: “Of course there is huge pressure from the developer, not to mention the Scottish government, not to delay the Viking Energy project any further, as the dates for the next CfD [Contracts for Difference] auction and the 2020 planning permission deadline for the development to proceed approach.

“Notwithstanding that, I reiterate my plea made to the planning committee members: it is within your powers to object to this variation application, and I believe there are sufficient valid reasons for doing so.

“At the very least I would hope that a condition requiring resubmission of the PSA is attached to any approval. That the draft conditions do not include any consideration of peat stability is a major omission.”


  1. Richard & Victoria Gibson

    Viking Energy Planning Amendment

    Two news items stood out last week. The school strike by the younger generation against the older generation’s failure to fight climate change, and the appalling attack by our older generation against Paul Riddle’s innocuous letter.

    When we look across Lerwick harbour from our home, we see the Lerwick power station, the island incinerator, local and mainland ferries, the fishing fleet, cargo ships, vast cruise liners and daily tankers delivering the fuel oil that keeps them all going. If we look up we see contrails of the aircraft on the polar routes that take us on holiday and the coastguard helicopter that guards our coast. if we step outside our door, we are reminded that Shetland has one of the highest car ownership ratios in Britain, again powered by fossil fuels.

    So what is our recommendation to our Councillors when they vote on the Viking Energy planning amendment? Imagine the future of Shetlands younger generations without employment from the oil industry, without cheap fossil fuels for their homes and jobs, and without a connection to the National Grid. If in doubt, look North across the harbour, and ask yourself whether the view of the largest wind turbine in Shetland really a worse alternative?

    • Brian Smith

      Richard and Victoria are mistaken if they think the schoolchildren were marching in support of football-pitch-size pylons. Meanwhile, I have a feeling that if the pylons were visible across Lerwick harbour, many of the enthusiasts would calm down abruptly.

    • Ali Inkster

      All of those eyesores you mention were there when you chose to live where you are. You willingly paid your money for a house with that view. Those that are going to have to live with the windfarm in their midst did not. Are you going to compensate them for their loss of amenity. Or just preach from the “pulpit of moral superiority”?

      • Richard & Victoria Gibson

        You miss the point of our post. It was not about the view, it was in support of the striking school children who are worrying about their, and their children’s futures. We chose our house because we liked the view of a vibrant harbour (and can walk to the shops). The list was to demonstrate Shetland’s dependence on oil and to try raise the level of discussion beyond the view and whether Shetland can survive without oil. I look forward to your reply.

  2. Johan Adamson

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Fossil fuels continue to ruin our environment but that does not make a case to further ruin our environment shipping enormous metal structures and blades, cement and cranes around the globe to further blight our landscape.

  3. Ian Tinkler

    Richard & Victoria Gibson, you are looking North across the harbour! Where is your viewpoint? From Lerwick harbour looking North, the Viking Project is not in the line of sight, unless, plans to enlarge this project even further have as yet not been made public. Further slight points for consideration, Richard & Victoria, Viking Energy is proposing to employ only 35 people once commissioned! With all our wildlife assets gone and landscape ruined, Just how many Cruise Liners will avoid Shetland! Just imagine how many in the tourist industry will lose their livelihood? Shetland would no longer be an environment I would like my children and grandchildren to grow up in. This project is no asset for our children. Just a massive industrial power plant, a financial asset for the already wealthy, nothing more.

  4. Evelyn Morrison

    I do not wish to waste my time pointing out arguments in response to this letter. I would however like to add that recent German health studies have shown that the results of infrasound on heart muscle tissue tests have shown a distinct effect regarding the reduction of heart muscle strength and the subsequent implications.
    It is obvious that as windfarm supporters the Gibsons have no concerns about this or for the health of people who will be seriously at risk should the SIC approve the increased height of the wind turbines.
    Finally, Paul Riddle’s letter was not ‘innocuous’ it was grossly ignorant.

    • Richard Gibson

      As a wind farm supporter I argued for a 2Km minimum separation between turbine and dwellings and, if this couldn’t be a achieved, an annual financial payment to householders to make up for any loss of property value so they could move. Not ideal, but better than now. I would have joined Sustainable Shetland if it had been about true sustainability and had been prepared to negotiate rather than make a hard edged demand for no cable and if they were prepared to grasp the opportunity to agree a planning policy of non proliferation of further farms (as is happening now).

      • Evelyn Morrison

        Well, now that the increased turbine height has been approved even more people will be subjected to health problems. For myself, lost value of property and pecuniary hand outs cannot possibly compensate for the resultant damage to health which the occupants of the windfarm can expect. Of course the wind industry continues to deny this despite all the ever increasing evidence to the contrary. The councillors who voted in favour of the increased turbine height are in my opinion either ignorant of the facts or else chose to hold objectors in contempt.

  5. Mr ian Tinkler

    Further to the above. Who seriously would try and install hundreds of tons of plant on this ridgeline? I would advise anyone with an interest to walk this ledge. In places, it is narrower than the proposed access road. https://www.facebook.com/ian.tinkler.5/media_set?set=a.984641608248796&type=3

  6. Michael Garriock

    It would seem the Gibsons cannot see the wood for the trees, as in their description of their view, they have omitted an example of a potential alternative source of energy, with arguably the least environmental impact currently feasible. Tidal!

    Tides are a predictable relative constant, and around the coast of Shetland there are numerous sites where one form of harnessing or another could be employed, and where tides occur at differing times providing a very real possibility of a constant 24/7/365 supply when they’re interlinked

    The engineering challenges of tidal are no less insurmountable than those of wind were when its development started, and the visual impact can only be considerably less.

    Wind is unpredictable, seldom does supply and demand equalise, there is no effective method of storage to carry surplus from peak production forward to periods of peak demand, and it needs fossil fuel backup on line to sustain supply and grid stability.

    Just imagine if the same investment and expertise had been thrown at tidal as has been thrown at wind, how far advanced tidal would be now. Windfarms are ‘visual politics’ con, the ‘powers that be’ being seen as ‘doing something’.

    • Richard Gibson

      Of course I am aware of the development of marine systems and their advantages, but the resources have not been made available for their development to a stage where they can support an island the size of Shetland or support a cable to the mainland. That is the point of our letter. The only possible alternative at present is wind. The effects of climate change are becoming more apparent by the day and nobody appears to understand that it will soon be too late to prepare Shetland for the worst effects, or even what the effects will be. To follow your analogy we are wandering into the wood without the slightest idea of how to escape.

  7. James J Paton

    With apologies, I had lost track of this development in as much that the delays seem to have revolved around the costs/ viability of the inter-connector. I really want to understand if there is a sound, unsubsidised business case. What are the projections for the profit to the Shetland community and over what period. Remember how the oil industry blackmailed the Council over the ( much reduced) rental settlement ( Busta House Agreement) for Sullom Vow in 1989. Profit aside, I still believe their is a better long- term economic benefit from Shetland investing to generate its own sustainable energy and a ‘green economy’ rather than become an offshore windfarm to largely profit others. The future electricity needs of Shetland will not be free from SSE, they will profit from Shetland. Final referendum on the issue, but with all the facts, risks and profits out in the open? Will the Council be seduced by the dash for cash. Will SCT, be putting too much (all?) of its oil eggs in one basket?

  8. David Spence

    I agree with Ian’s comment in regard to the price Shetland will pay in lost revenue through the tourist and hospitality industries if the Viking Energy Project goes ahead? What feedback will cruiseliners, tourists and tour operators say when it comes to visiting the islands? One of the first things they may say ‘ Shetland used to be a beautiful place to visit but now the landscape is ruined and covered in wind turbines. I would advise you not to visit these islands. ‘. Would this be Shetlands future in not attracting people to visit the islands??? How many jobs will be lost due to lack of tourism and people visiting the islands? I very much suspect it will be vastly greater than what VEP will employ?

    • Laurence Paton

      David ,
      Tourism causes Global warming.
      Tourism will need to be banned due to the emissions associated with transportation – Cruise Liners, Jumbo Jets = millions of tons of green house gas

      We only have 12 years to save the planet

    • Malcolm Smith

      The Viking wind turbines would have no effect whatsoever on our intention to visit Shetland. On previous visits we have thought that the site is a large peaty hummock in the middle which is hard to imagine people visiting for its own sake. Turbines would be an exciting sight , rather like the ones in the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre Donald Trump was so opposed to.

  9. Peter Hamilton

    Those aren’t SCT’s oil eggs being put in one basket. It is Shetland’s oil money and also landscape being ventured with no accountability or consent.

    The best way forwards for jobs and sustainability would be a Shetland grid sustained largely by the established technology of tidal capture. Reliance on SSE is not desirable, particularly when Shetland could become self-sufficient with cheaper bills instead.

    At the point that Viking and the interconnector get approval other schemes are poised to start. All the projects need to be considered as interconnected and the final visual and health, environmental, noise and flicker impacts should be considered collectively too.

    The various beneficiaries have lined up to push forwards to their respective gain. It is hard to resist, especially when the SIC – compromised on Viking as they are as potential benefactors via the Busta estate -have deliberately chosen not to put a limit on the overall extent on wind development in Shetland. Global warming won’t be stopped by disrupting peat with cement or by pandering to greed.

    Shetland won’t sink under the collective weight of this inanity, but neither will it gain optimal benefit. Shetland’s oil funds must be put away from sticky fingers.

    • Richard Gibson

      At last a constructive post. Unfortunately, tidal technology has not reached a stage that enables it to become a primary source of energy and, like wind, needs either storage or fossil fuel generation, to match supply with demand. The advantage of a connection to the National Grid, is that demand & supply can be more easily matched. It also enables surplus energy to be sold to pay for the capital expenditure. An isolated local grid, without a way of matching supply with demand, is inherently inefficient and is reliant on fossil fuel generation.

  10. Laughton Johnston

    There’s enough hyperbole in the responses to Richard and Victoria Gibson’s letter to power a wind turbine for a week! Strange that none of the nine so far can utter the words ‘Climate Change’. Once again opposers of Viking Energy have resorted to personal attacks, but that only goes to show the weakness of their case: if you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger. I think schoolchildren will know better.

    • Robert Sandison

      The turbine has yet to be designed to alter ‘Climate Change’, but they certainly alter and destroy everything else in their path.

    • David Spence

      As far as I am aware Laughton, the people of Shetland will not benefit that much from the VEP as an alternative source of power. I understand VEP will sell to the highest bidder outwith the islands as a source of revenue?

      However, how much damage will be done to the Shetland economy as a result of the VEP, and how many jobs will be lost to other industries related to tourism and the hospitality industry as a direct consequence of the VEP? What impact to Shetland bird life will there be?

      These factors, as far as I am aware, have not been incorporated into the equation or the potential impact, albeit possibly estimated negative economic statistics to the VEP?

      Like most money making schemes, it is profit which dictates regardless to any other negatives this money making scheme may have? Short term vision, screw the long term consequences.

      What price is Shetland really paying for the very small minority to benefit???

  11. Ian Tinkler

    Laughton Johnston; Climate change, pollution and destruction of the environment! The total effect of VE will be minimal, utterly insignificant. I would take a little more notice of the Climate Change doom mongers if they had the courage to address the real problem. That is the extraordinary growth in the human population. Condoms are the answer, not wind farms! Simples, but that is just not PR enough. (UN figures ” roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year”. Just how many wind turbines will provide power for that number of people?”

  12. John Tulloch

    @Laughton Johnston,

    I’m happy to mention “Climate Change”. There, I’ve said it.

    It isn’t clear to me why Shetland residents should have to bear the brunt of others’ CO2 sins by having the monstrosities of VE, Peel Energy and Energy Isles – enough to wipe out Shetland’s entire “carbon footprint” many times over – imposed upon them.

    Other parts of the country, notably, cities – heavily subsidised electric cars for the rich notwithstanding – are doing nothing.

    Where are the wind turbines on Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills? Campsie Fells? Ochil Hills? God, no! Better by far to keep them out of sight in the Highlands and Islands!

    In global terms, Shetland’s quixotic effort will have a vanishingly negligible effect.

    China, with 2 billion people, accounts for more than half global coal demand and is building hundreds of new coal-fired power plants (see link). India with 1 billion people, has more than doubled her coal mining capacity since 2014 (see link).

    So how much difference will devastating Shetland’s environment make to “catastrophic climate change”?

    I will tell you. Zilch.

    So why da hell sud Shetlanders hae ta “tak aa da wyte” (weight)?


  13. Laurence Paton

    In the last 20 years there has been over half a million wind turbines installed globally. There has also been a huge acreage of Solar panels installed.
    In that same time frame consumption of oil has risen by 10 million barrels per day from 80 million barrels per day to 90 million barrels per day.
    Think about that – 500,000 wind turbines installed yet globally we are burning 10 million MORE barrels of oil EVERY DAY.
    The global warming alarmist’s who are proposing wind mills alone as our saviour need to do some serious critical thinking.
    Another interesting Forecast I read is that the aviation industry expects to double in size over the next 20 years… Which means that come 2035 there will be an additional 3 billion people spending periods of time in the upper atmosphere onboard fossil fuel burning aircraft.

    I can only conclude that the combating climate change mantra of V.E. supporters is an utter con.

  14. Ian Tinkler

    Climate Change, look to Europe! Our German friends with their magnificent Green Democracy. Turbines everwhere, yet are so short of power they are in the process of completing a World First. A second gas pipe the length of the Baltic to import Russian Gas by the thousands and thousands of tons (Nordstream 2). Quite apart from the Gas Shetland exports to them. What kind of Moronic mentality advocates expensive wind power for Shetland and the UK when exporting our very own cheap gas for Europe to burn. The Charitable Trust and the SNP, they have it all worked out, Shetland will export its gas for others to burn, spend a billion or so on wind farms and interconnectors, how clever can you get?!!!!! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nord_Stream

  15. Ian Tinkler

    Further to above. Nord Strem pipeline to Green Germany, “The pipeline has two parallel lines, each with the capacity of 27.5 billion cubic metres (970 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year. ” Now that is what you call climate changing!!!! Also Sturgeon’s little wheeze of importing Shale Gas into Scotland (Grangemouth). She keeps a bit quiet about that!!!! That is just annually 400,000 tonnes of ethane from the US. It would be hard to make up the EU and Scottish governments policy on Climate Change., but I am sure Richard & Victoria and Laughton Johnston have it all worked out. https://www.google.com/search?lr=&as_qdr=all&ei=h4ZyXPL5GZOU1fAPyOWj-As&q=Shale+Gas+Grangemouth+yearly+amount&oq=Shale+Gas+Grangemouth+yearly+amount&gs_l=psy-ab.12..33i160.4247.7214..9126…0.0..0.280.1248.0j5j2……0….1..gws-wiz…….35i302i39j33i21.IeF7APSJVMs

  16. Laughton Johnston

    What hypocrisy, what failure of vision! The letters in response to mine neglect to say that Shetland’s vibrant economy and society today owes everything to Sullom and oil. It’s payback time for the downside of contributing more than our fair share to climate change. It is no excuse to say my/our contribution to mitigating the effects is infinitesimal. There’s no magic antidote to climate change, there’s no opt-out, everyone must make a contribution, however small.

    And perhaps the editor ought to read his own paper ”However there are many, perhaps outnumbering those in favour, who have been strongly against the scale of this scheme since it was first mooted (editorial 22.02.2019)”. The last survey of Shetland opinion on Viking Energy was carried out by the Shetland Times and showed more were for than against! ‘Perhaps’ that proportion has increased.

    • Brian Smith

      Instead of hurling insults, can I suggest that Laughton explain, without hyperbole, exactly how the Viking Energy proposal will affect climate change?

    • Robert Wishart

      The poll Mr Johnston refers to demonstrated that the majority in most areas were against. In particular, there were significant majorities against the windfarm in the districts which will be most damaged by it. Only two areas voted in favour; the North Isles and parts of Lerwick. These swung the overall vote to “positive” – which is presumably how he regards the impending destruction of our local environment.

  17. David Spence

    I take note that none of the comments has mention the main cause to global warming and climate change. I suspect most people may blame it on fossil fuelled power stations, and mostly likely transportation as the main culprits?

    However, one industry which has not been mentioned, and produces 6 times more green houses gases than all of the transportation put together, is this of Agriculture.

    As the populations grows, demand for more land for agriculture and living space will be required, and the destruction of the natural habitats will become greater and greater. Agriculture, in terms of meat production and crops, has been untouched with any form of criticism as one of the causes to global warming and climate change?

    This will become more evident as we ignore this form of pollution. What technologies can do about this is very limited indeed when it comes to the basic model of food production. Unless we harness the oceans as a source of food and crop production, destroying natural habitat could have serious and grave consequences to the balance of life on this planet, and ultimately ourselves as a species?

    Reject commercialism (profit and greed) and work together is the only way to potentially solve the problem of global warming and the preservation of life (all) on this planet.

    • Richard & Victoria Gibson

      So we do nothing? Our post was about Shetland’s reliance on fossil fuels and the opportunity that VE offers within current possibilities and the market led economy within which we live. We would certainly welcome a wider discussion about how we will cope with the effects of Climate Change, including rising sea levels.

      • David Spence

        I take your point Richard and Victoria, but climate change is not just limited to fossil fuel emissions and the rise in global temperatures, albeit marginal.

        As far as I can see, one of the problems in not dealing with the effects of global warming and rising sea levels, is the human concept of money.

        However, and here is the dilemma, agriculture poses one of the largest contributors to global warming, and it is this, by its very nature, which could prove to be difficult to address in terms of finding new methods of food production without affecting the balance of reducing green-house gases thus reducing global temperatures. As the population grows, this will, as mentioned, become more relevant and our greater need to do more action to tackle global warming and rising sea levels will become more urgent.

        This action would require the agreement of most developed countries, and this could come into conflict with the less developed countries, where their economies are less stable.

        Teaching people to be more conscious about energy conservation would help. However, as demand increases, we maybe forced to go nuclear. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  18. John Tulloch

    @Laughton Johnston,

    I’m pleased you accept there’s “no magic antidote to climate change”. Building wind farms on blanket bog across the Highlands and Islands is arguably not even mitigation.

    However, you neglect to explain why Shetlanders should be forced to cancel their ‘carbon footprint’ several times over while the likes of Edinburgh with its half a million people is exempt from wind farms?

    There are plenty of ways to reduce/eliminate Shetland’s carbon footprint without devastating its UNESCO Geopark with giant wind farms.

    Come back with your argument when Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills have been obliterated by scores of 500 foot wind turbines.

  19. Sandy McMillan

    Very little thought gone into the Gibson’s letter what they see out there window, Is where Shetland has an income coming from, Cruse Liners bring in the Tourists who spend in the shops, Cargo ships bring in the necessities, and take away products from the Isles, Fishing is a necessities for human consumption, and bring in quite a considerable income to Shetland, Farming and Livestock.
    When these Wind Mills goes up, Bang goes the Tourist and all that goes with them, Such as accommodation Hotels, Guest Houses, Passenger Ships and the Planes’
    Shetland will not be the same, with all these dirty big Wind Mills all over, are the Councillors Blind and Brainless.

    • Richard Gibson

      Exactly our point. Shetlands economy is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and when the rest of the world is forced by climate change to turn to clean energy we need to be ready. The Norwegian shipping company Hurtigruten is already Converting their Cruise Ships to hybrid power (gas / electric) designed by Rolls-Royce Marine. Not perfect, but considerably better than dirty diesel. An option for our local ferries?

  20. Johan Adamson

    ‘everyone must make a contribution, however small’

    We are all making small contributions every day, I am sure.

    Turning Shetland into a gigantic windfarm is a major contribution, out of kilter with our size. Its surely BP who should pay back for its contribution to collecting fossil fuels not Shetland?

    • Sandy McMillan

      Please tell, what are the people of Shetland going to get out of this mess, I mean the people not the Council, after all we have put and still are given a lot money into this, for what. Just to watch Shetland becoming a deralic Island, Why are people not getting a say in this, after all they are going to have to live with, why are the folk not getting to vote on this, As a democratic Island we surely have the rights to ask for a vote, a very simple voting paper of either YES or NO.

  21. John Tulloch

    I see electricity prices are to rise, yet again, this time by 10%.

    Little wonder that fuel poverty levels are so high, especially, in Shetland and the other northern and western isles where, all other things being equal, the weather necessitates higher energy use than in the rest of the UK.

    This is a matter of concern for the “Shetland Partnership”, one of whose objectives is the elimination of fuel poverty in the isles.

    I wonder how they plan to tackle that, given the latest price shock?

  22. John Tulloch

    The only thing missing from some of the comments here is a declaration that “the sky is falling!”

    In fact, what will be “falling” most rapidly will be the temperature in the homes of people suffering fuel poverty.

    In 2014, Orkney and the Western Isles had over 50 percent in fuel poverty with Shetland not far behind and its getting worse every year due to the huge increases in the price of electricity.

    The BBC recently put Orkney guel poverty st 63 percent of homes!



  23. ian tinkler

    How many tens of thousands of tons of concrete does VE hope to pour onto living peatland? Just what is the carbon footprint here? https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth

  24. Johan Adamson

    @Richard and Victoria Gibson “So we do nothing? Our post was about Shetland’s reliance on fossil fuels and the opportunity that VE offers within current possibilities and the market led economy within which we live. We would certainly welcome a wider discussion about how we will cope with the effects of Climate Change, including rising sea levels.”

    I think that’s right, we need a wider discussion on this. The subsidy available to VE has attracted big business to invest in wind turbines – for the money, not necessarily for the environment – but really it should have encouraged more innovation and things like tidal, things that one day may really save our planet.

  25. ian tinkler

    https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth It is of very ironic I have to than Jonathon Wills for this information. Strange world is it not? Just how many tens of thousands of tons will VE dump neutralising one of natures greatest carbon sinks and releasing hundreds of thousands of tons CO2 into the atmosphear.?

  26. Brian Smith

    While we’re waiting, I see a splendid letter by Sue Wailoo on the subject in today’s Shetland Times.

    • Laurence Paton

      I agree Brian, was indeed a splendid letter from Sue Wailoo, many valid points made.

      Climate changing outwith normal patterns is a concern but it seems there is a lot of King Canute – esque delusion with this idea of wind generators as a saviour
      Half a million + wind generators installed globally and oil consumption has risen by 10 million barrels per day – presently 90 million barrels are consumed and projected to rise to 105 m.b.p.d
      Back to V.E, – It is a ridiculous project as it begins with burning huge amounts of fossil fuel digging up vast amounts of a natural carbon sink to build a road network and the the generators installed are hundreds of miles away from where the power generated is required which means installing a lengthy cable which is also fossil fuel intensive to manufacture and install.
      All green energy projects should apply the logic – How can we install the maximum generating capacity efficiently.
      There is presently many purpose built vessels installing W.G. at sea. – There is no wasted energy building roads. Transmission cables not longer than they need to be – No desecration of natural land habitat

    • Richard Gibson

      At least Sue Wailoo accepts that Climate Change is a ‘deadly serious’ threat but she still proposes an un-workable and un-tested generating system.

  27. Richard & Victoria Gibson

    To Laurence Paton, Brian Smith, David Spence, Ian Tinkler, John Tulloch & Robert Sandison:

    Our letter asked what we should do for our children’s and our children’s children’s future. We pointed out that we are heavily reliant on fossil fuels and enjoy an enviable life style. The planet already has more oil & gas than it is safe to use which means that when the penny finally drops, the difficult and expensive reserves will be the first to be abandoned – which is likely to include those around Shetland. Yes, there are all sorts of ideas of how to combat climate change, and lots of impractical suggestions as to why wind turbines aren’t the solution, but it is not in Shetland’s power to develop, adopt, or research, untried technology, or change our capitalist society. We have to look at what is possible here and now, and try to envisage what rising temperature and sea level will mean for Shetland, its built and natural environments, and what we can do to lessen the impact. Yes, VE is large and intrusive but it is partly community owned and, if built, will more than repay the community investment and provide an income during it’s life. I am happy to go on debating this because it is so important, but please concentrate on what is practical and possible.

  28. Ian Tinkler

    “more than repay the community investment and provide an income during its life” It will never do that. Money is not all that Shetland has. Sadly so many can not see past the lining of their already deep pockets. What Shetland would lose goes well beyond making a few greedy folks a little bit richer. Some things are worth more than money. I also seriously doubt it would even pay for itself and the fabled interconnector. It would never pay back the environmental damage nor the hardship to those living in its shadow. (But then Richard & Victoria Gibson are well away from VE!!! )

  29. John Tulloch

    @Richard and Victoria Gibson,

    You write, “The Norwegian shipping company Hurtigruten is already Converting their Cruise Ships to hybrid power (gas). Not perfect, but considerably better than dirty diesel.”

    Not sails? No. That would be silly – and uneconomic. Only the mega rich could afford to cruise on such a craft.

    It seems fossil fuel use is fine for wealthy Norwegians on cruises but not for Shetlanders’ daily grind of getting to work and heating their homes?

    Scotland’s northern and western isles have the highest levels of fuel poverty (63 percent in Orkney, before this year’s 10 percent price hike!).

    I wonder how many of the striking children’s parents must choose whether to “heat or eat”?

    Caused by the boom in expensive renewable energy and associated, hidden costs (transmission and standby supplies), it will get worse.

    Where were you when I showed that a new, gas-fired power is by far the most affordable option for Shetland’s electricity?

    Applying your standard for wealthy Norwegians’ gas use, “Not perfect, but considerably better than dirty diesel.”

    Don’t you agree?

    • Richard Gibson

      Our letter was about preparing Shetland for Climate Change so our children and our children’s children can continue to live here if they wish, but your reply ignores this – as if you thought it irrelevant – you also misquoted my letter regarding the fuel used in Hurtigruten’s ships to support your argument. Yes, a gas powered power station would be environmentally preferable to a diesel station if it wasn’t for climate change, and if there was any certainty of gas being available in Shetland for the life of the power station. Hasn’t it occurred to you that with the inevitable pressure to restrict the use of fossil fuels, the Atlantic fields may be amongst the first to go.

  30. Ian Tinkler

    No, Richard, your letter was about Viking Energy, not Climate change! You mentioned our children’s children as an emotive sideline conveniently forgetting to say that by the time our children have children VE will be a mass of polluting crap disfiguring and contaminating Shetland. ( Only scheduled to last about 20 years max)!!! Climate change will be entirely unaltered by Viking Energy as I am sure you are well aware. If fossil fuels have to be restricted then perhaps you should inform the world about that. India, Germany, China are massively increasing their reliance on fossil fuels. That alone makes VE entirely irrelevant unless you are after the money!!!

    • Richard Gibson

      Wrong, Ian, My post was entirely about coping with climate change in Shetland long after you & I have gone. I wrote about children because they seem to be more concerned about climate change than our government, and understand that they will have to live and cope with the consequences of our folly. Of course money will be important to anyone who has to cope with rising sea levels, Shetland’s infrastructure and the waterfronts of Lerwick and Scalloway.

  31. John Tulloch

    @RIchard Gibson,

    I beg your pardon, I did not “misquote your letter”. I copied and pasted your comment exactly as it appeared and drew a straight inference from what you wrote.

    No. It hasn’t occurred to me that with the “inevitable pressure to restrict the use of fossil fuels, the Atlantic fields may be amongst the first to go”. Unlike you, obviously, I follow the news on energy use forecasts.

    May I suggest you consult BP’s latest ‘Energy Outlook 2019’ (see link) which predicts world demand for gas will increase by over 50 percent between now and 2040, even under the most optimistic emissions reduction (“rapid transition”) scenario (Page 7).

    The Atlantic gas fields will be operating and new fields developed, long after the gas power station I want to see has been replaced by a new one.

    • Richard Gibson

      Your quote was “The Norwegian shipping company Hurtigruten is already Converting their Cruise Ships to hybrid power (gas). Not perfect, but considerably better than dirty diesel.” While I said – “hybrid power (gas/electric)” rather than just gas – which is pertinent to my argument about electric generation.

      With regard to the Atlantic gas fields, I wouldn’t take an oil company’s predictions about the future use of fossil fuels against scientific predictions as to what it is safe to use. Even NASA’s predictions of temperature rise look like being over optimistic. It’s not the availability of fossil fuels – it is what we can afford to use that is important.

  32. Ian Tinkler

    Richard Gibson, I also beg your pardon, your statement “My post was ENTIRELY about coping with climate ” is simply not true. This entire blog is headed with Viking Energy in the title. You reference Viking Energy in your comments. Little point in discussion if you are so fast and loose with the truth!!

  33. Ian Tinkler

    Well, there we go, maybe all irrelevant now. “Viking Energy” may be retiring along with Bobby Hunter!!
    Could this be the end of Viking Energy? Clair Perry today on Radio 4 PM. “Offshore wind cost dropped by half over the last two years. The great thing about offshore wind farms is that they are near big population centres. It is cheaper now to get offshore than onshore Energy. ” Whoop, Whoop. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0002zr8

  34. Rosa Steppanova

    I note Richard asks his opponents to confine their contributions to what is ” practical and possible” (2nd. March). All human progress was achieved by those who dared to go, think and push beyond what was/is possible and practical. If women had taken Richard’s advice they still wouldn’t be able to vote, own property or – dare I say – wear trousers – today is International Women’s Day.

    • Richard Gibson

      I always think of myself as a pragmatic optimist Rosa. Perhaps that is why I have huge sympathy for Greta Thunberg’s campaign against climate change when she imagines her children and grandchildren asking her why she did not taken action in 2018. Greta’s campaign is a shining example of the trail pioneered by the suffragettes. A visionary in jeans against the grey suits. But still nobody takes much notice. Shetland has escaped the worst effects of climate change (terrifying fires and devastating floods) but for how much longer?

  35. Mr ian Tinkler

    Interesting point from Rosa. Now what is possible and practical is “offshore wind turbines”, generating power, at half the price Viking Energy needs to to be profitable. No destructive access roads needed, no peat disturbance and assorted stability dangers. no massively costly interconnectors, no need to destroy Shetland as can be located close to where power is needed, no need to be close to dwelling houses with associated nuisances and dangers (flicker, infrasound, fire and collapsing) and above all no Viking Energy and assorted monstrosities all over Shetland!!! All of Richard & Victoria Gibson fears on “Climate Change” sorted at a fraction of the cost. Sadly no money for nothing for the usual greedy few, but I can live with that!! Certainly offshore is the lesser evil until modular mini nuclear comes online (Thorium based) but our Green friends probably do not understand that, and as usual, are in total ignorance of it.

  36. Peter Hamilton

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it could be both practical and possible to use tidal power technology in use on La Rance river in Brittany since 1966 on three narrow-mouthed Voes on the West Side, synchronising these to ensure continuous power generation. This would use less Co2-leeching concrete and fewer lorry journeys – bad news for some of the vested interests behind Viking Energy and related schemes.

    Governments reasonable seek to secure some degree of economic activity by subsidising energy generation, but were Shetland’s natural resources harnessed into a green-energy Shetland grid this could secure more jobs locally and lower bills too.

    Onshore wind-farms that disrupt peat make little sense environmentally, even less with grid energy storage improvements reducing the need for the UK’s national grid to access Shetland’s generation capacity.

    Viking Energy was never about the environment. Fundamentally its about tying down the oil money away from community hands whilst ground rent accrues to the council’s reserves via the Busta estate, with this pushed forwards by others who are set to gain. This is why it’s been so necessary to prevent the people of Shetland from having a say over how their oil money is used.

    Where’s the greater gain?

    • Richard Gibson

      An interesting suggestion. I visited the La Rance Tidal Barrage many years while on a camping holiday in Brittany and it certainly is an impressive bit of engineering – but sadly not practical for Shetland. The tidal range at La Rance is an impressive 8 meters, while the equivalent in Scalloway is closer to 1 meter – and as low as 0.5 meters for parts of the cycle – which would be insufficient for any meaningful contribution, and certainly insufficient to repay the engineering costs involved. It also, of course, raises the issue of landscape because I have always considered the coastal views more important than the interior of Shetland. But I suppose this is a question of taste.

      • Ian Tinkler

        “I have always considered the coastal views more important than the interior of Shetland,” I love that NIMBY comment from Richard Gibson, so typical as his house looks seaward. Now let us leave fairyland folks (Peter and Richard) a tidal barrage across a Voe or Bay in Shetland is not a very practical or sensible suggestion, however, using sea currents to drive submerged undersea turbines is. We have loads of fast tidal flows with immense kinetic energy which are an excellent source of reliable and clean power. I must stress; however, this power should be used locally, not rendered uneconomic by futile attempt to export it South, enabling our usual suspects to line their pockets. Little use for a £750 million interconnector when the energy needs of the major UK population centres can be well served by local positioned cheap offshore. There we go, children, Carbon free (Climate Change-friendly) without industrialising the Shetland countryside. Richard Gibson, these sea turbines would be submerged preserving your sea views and not upsetting NIMBY views (sorry no pun intended). https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/tide-turning-underwater-turbines.html

  37. John Tulloch

    @Richard Gibson,

    Ah, I see what you mean. Somehow, possibly due to sausage fingers on phone keypads, I have managed to alter the text of your comment, resulting in a misquote. I’m sorry about that. Thank you for pointing out the error.

    Fortunately, other than distraction, it makes no material difference to my point as the word “hybrid” implies the presence of an electric generator, in this case, powered by the fossil fuel gas.

    I can’t correct my original comment so here’s a distilled version of what I meant to post:

    “Richard and Victoria Gibson,

    You write: “The Norwegian shipping company Hurtigruten is already Converting their Cruise Ships to hybrid power (gas / electric) designed by Rolls-Royce Marine. Not perfect, but considerably better than dirty diesel.”

    It seems fossil fuel use is fine for wealthy Norwegians on cruises but not for Shetlanders’ daily grind of getting to work and heating their homes?

    Scotland’s northern and western isles have the highest levels of fuel poverty (63 percent in Orkney, before this year’s 10 percent price hike!).

    Caused by the boom in expensive renewable energy and associated, hidden costs (transmission and standby supplies), it will get worse.”

    • Richard Gibson

      The Hurtigruten voyage is from Bergen to Kirkeness and back and is part of the national transport strategy subsidised by the Norwegian government. It calls in at over 20 ports each way where the ships will recharge their batteries from the abundant hydro electric power – gas is the fall-back fuel. The ships now take cruise passengers because more Norwegians are driving or flying – but this may change when their government gets to grips with climate change.

  38. ian tinkler

    Remote UK projects’ competitiveness ‘highly uncertain’

    If they cannot compete with other ‘Pot 2’ technologies, however, RIW projects will not be awarded a contract.
    BEIS added that the extent to which such projects are able to compete against other ‘Pot 2’ technologies is “highly uncertain”.
    Remote islands’ isolation and lack of grid connection with the mainland limits projects’ ability to sell the power they produce, the government explained.
    They would also have higher construction and operating costs, according to the government’s impact assessment.

  39. John Tulloch


    I’m not against it. If people can afford to pay for so-called “green energy” and that’s what they want then good luck to them.

    However, i’m picking up from your responses that you don’t care a fig about the unfortunate people in Shetland and elsewhere who find themselves in fuel poverty (63 percent in Orkney), facing the dilemma of whether to “heat or eat”.

    Every time a project like VE is commissioned, it adds to the cost of their energy, causing their number to soar, similarly boosting demand at food banks.

    • Richard Gibson

      You couldn’t be more wrong John. I have spent most of my working life as an architect designing and promoting better social housing, particularly since Thatcher sold of the council housing stock without reinvesting the proceeds in replacing them or up grading the older stock. Energy efficient homes is much better than heating old ones.

  40. Johan Adamson

    I just wish that Viking’s plan was brought a bit more up to date. We could have offshore turbines, tidal, something else. I understand the desire so many years ago for us to have a cable. If that had been in the offing anyway, would we design something different. And would we have designed a scheme that would have delivered cheaper power for residents? Can’t see why that still is not part of the offering. Is the Busta agreement so watertight that the turbines cant now go offshore? Excuse the pun.

  41. Ian Tinkler

    Johan, a clean, non-industrial way forward. We have loads of fast tidal flows with immense kinetic energy which are an excellent source of reliable and clean power. I must stress; however, this power should be used locally, not rendered uneconomic by futile attempt to export it South, enabling our usual suspects to line their pockets. Little use for a £750 million interconnector when the energy needs of the major UK population centres can be well served by local positioned cheap offshore. There we go, Carbon free (Climate Change-friendly) without industrialising the Shetland countryside.. https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/tide-turning-underwater-turbines.html

  42. Richard Gibson

    And what do we do during slack water Ian and Johan? – Fire up the power station or sit in the dark?

    • Michael Garriock

      You have multiple generating sites placed at suitable locations around Shetland’s coast. In case you hadn’t noticed, tides run at all different times around these islands, just a little math, thanks to the predictability of tides, and you can construct a network that ensures continuity of generation capacity.

      The ONLY time backup need be brought in to play is during equipment failures, unlike windmill, which require backup to be brought in to play every time the wind falls below a certain strength AND during equipment failures.

      Surely, if well over 100 glaring white poles dotting our skyline are considered acceptable visual pollution for their ‘benefits’, a few dozen tidal sites at sea level largely hidden from view with in all probability less visible than your average fish farm site or pier, their visual pollution will be virtually inconsequential.

  43. Johan Adamson

    What do we do during calm spells with no wind Richard?

    Our tides still have energy on flat calm days

  44. Ian Tinkler

    A really, really silly question from Richard Gibson, “what do we do during slack water?”, with a really, really simple answer. We do exactly what we would have to do when now the wind does not blow on our wind farms. We use backup generators (natural gas and locally generated hydrogen). Now the beauty of submerged tidal turbines is that we know exactly to the minute when power is available, unlike wind which is unpredictable to the day or week! Tidal is twice daily (ebb and flow). This would enable accurately timed back up with a vastly reduced carbon footprint.
    Now with the use of the tidal tables to know the exact time power becomes available for storage and from what point on Shetland power is generated. That storage could be simple heat storage units, electric car charging points, domestic battery systems (all with timers and automatic cut-outs, rather like today’s off-peak electricity meters) — eventually hydrogen generation and storage. (Using hydrogen as the base load back up. Turbine drive or fuel cell))
    The Physics is simple, the power source reliable and independent of erratic weather patterns and base generation from gas is on tenth as polluting as present diesel, wood chip burning and waste burning.
    A list below of just a few advantages of local tidal over local wind farms, (Viking Energy Windfarm et al.).
    1/. Predictable power to the minute.
    2/. No destruction of peat.
    3/. No danger to local habitation. (Landslip, infrasound etc.)
    4/.No property devaluation.
    5/.No extensive and expensive access tracks.
    6/.No bird mincing.
    7/.No environmental damage (Submerged man-made sea structures are shown to enhance biodiversity)
    8/. Shetland beautiful landscape preserved. (Wildlife habitat, peat more and landscape views)
    10/. A massive reduction in CO2 generation with minimal use of concrete.
    11/. Natural gas, eventually hydrogen gas back up generation. On tenth as polluting as diesel or SHEAP.
    12/. No interconnector needed, £750,000 saved with huge carbon footprint avoided.
    I apologise if this appears simplistic. Regrettably, most of the wind farm supporters group seem a little slow on the uptake of scientific matters, so I have used standard grade physics to ease understanding.

  45. John Tulloch

    @Richard Gibson,

    I don’t doubt that in your professional life you have sought to meet and exceed government regulations on energy efficiency of buildings.

    Nevertheless, by your brassbound support for industrial renewable energy, you seek to impose an ever-growing burden of energy cost on those in fuel poverty.

    Sadly, the best efforts of your noble profession have failed to prevent fuel poverty rising to its present, shocking level.

    As previously stated, it was 63 percent in Orkney – BEFORE this year’s 10 percent price rise – with Shetland and the Western Isles uncomfortably close behind.

    The Shetland Inequalities Commission has, among others, the laudable objective of eradicating fuel poverty from the isles. However, I’m unsure how they plan to achieve that?

  46. Jim Ivens

    I have to wholeheartedly back the tidal energy movement. It seems to me to be the obvious solution to our energy crisis, but it seems to be ignored by those concerned with generating power. Is that possibly because there is not a big enough subsidy on tidal power? I am sorry that I am getting more cynical as I get older, but that’s what life has taught me.

  47. Haydn Gear

    No, Jim you are not being cynical — just sensible and practical. With all that vast tidal power surrounding Shetland, it would be foolish and short sighted to not use it. Perhaps those who oppose the idea would like to provide a good reason for doing so. They will struggle.

  48. Peter Hamilton

    Ian offered a dozen advantages of tidal over wind on 15th March. Pity his argument was spoilt by him belittling the intelligence of windfarm group supporters and calling Richard’s question “really, really silly”.

    Rather than allowing the strength of his argument to speak for itself untarnished, Ian has again put people off from engaging, even agreeing with him. Again he has laid himself open to criticism. If only wind power was as reliable.

  49. James Sandison

    Hayden Gear states that it will be a struggle to oppose the use of tidal power. I think I can throw a spanner or two in the works.
    Like all renewable energy tidal energy has its drawbacks. Although predictable, tide has about 4 hours per day (every day) of slack tide when little power is generated. We would have to change from working/living by a solar clock, and change to a lunar clock. An answer to that would be to have many generators staggered all over the place, each taking their turn to supply power when the tide was flowing at their location. For peak efficiency their location needs to be where tide is concentrated in the various sounds around the coast. Do we have enough of these locations to give continuous supply? I think we might struggle.
    Then at the moment, the technology is not yet readily available for large scale tidal power, and I dare say there would be vociferous objections from maritime users, as there is always someone to object to everything nowadays. Large capacity storage is still in its infancy, so not a relevant at this time.
    So instead of having one power source with capacity to supply the island continuously, we would have to have many generators (how many would we need, four, six or eight?) each with sufficient capacity to act as a stand-alone unit for the whole island, . Now that is a perfect model of bad engineering, inefficiency and cost.
    And think of all the CO2 that would be used in the manufacture and transport of all these units. A final point, to read some of the above, it would seem that the manufacture and installation of wind turbines is the only process that produces CO2. I think the blinkers need to come off in that respect.

  50. Mr ian Tinkler

    I note your points James but hydrogen generation for power storage is hardly new technology. Fuel cells have been around for a century and is in commercial use today (Twelve hydrogen fuel cell electric busses running in Dundee). Battery back up, domestic and in cars is hardly rare or in its infancy, (Tesla et al). Tidal as you state has four hours of slack water. No wind across the whole UK (including Shetland) lasted weeks and did so in 2018. With reference to tidal turbines (tidal stream energy), not one vociferous objector so far even though worldwide there are many, many such schemes. Now finally carbon footprints, concrete is probably the single greatest commodity producing CO2 (8% world CO2 emissions) world wide. Just how many 10s of thousands of tons would VE and allied wind farms use. Further to that vast amounts of highly alkaline runoff is produced. Now peat captures and stores CO2 by being acidic, you really do not have to be much of a biologist or chemist to understand what will happen if VE goes ahead.

  51. John Tulloch

    It is a truly monstrous scandal that billions of pounds worth of gas comes ashore in Shetland for direct transfer south, without a single molecule being made available to local authority, residents or businesses.

    Shetland gas could be used to greatly reduce Shetland’s ‘carbon footprint’ via electricity generation, direct supplies to homes and businesses (e.g. SHEAP/district heating), and motor fuel for road vehicles and marine craft e.g. ferries.

    Direct from the field, this uniquely affordable energy source would give a major boost to the Shetland Inequalities Commission’s (extremely challenging) goal of eliminating Shetland’s shocking level of fuel poverty.

    Local gatekeepers (e.g. SCT, SIC), blinkered by climate change/renewable energy ideology, are blocking the way to this wonderful opportunity for local people and businesses.

  52. Haydn Gear

    I take James Sandison’s point but whilst there are four hour long periods of slack water there can be days long windless periods. Maybe, just maybe there needs to be more than one type of energy production if Shetland’s power needs are to be made safe and reliable.

  53. Johan Adamson

    Yes, Hayd we are always going to need back up

  54. Mr ian Tinkler

    James Sandison, you write, “So instead of having one power source with capacity to supply the island continuously, we would have to have many generators (how many would we need, four, six or eight?) each with sufficient capacity to act as a stand-alone unit for the whole island. Now that is a perfect model of bad engineering, inefficiency and cost.” Another daft comment from a Wind Farm advocate. Now let us consider VE alone requires over 100 generators on high mounts!!! Over 100 miles of access tracks over a vital carbon sink (peat Moreland), a 75 million pounds of interconnector and huge subsidies to hope for financial viability!! Then wind power still needs a base power supply (diesel or gas) for when the wind does not blow. Give me a handful of tidal stream generators as a more intelligent option any time even if we do need to use “Lunar Time” to calculate maximal generation. No problem with that, ask any fisherman, sailor or coastal worker they use “tide tables” (Lunar ) all the time!!! Simples.

  55. James Mackenzie

    I see that Viking Energy has now submitted plans to the SIC for two “Camp Sites”, one of a mere 6.25 ha at Sandwater, another of just 4 hectares at the Scord of Tresta. Why were these not in the original planning application? It just seems that insult is added to injury…

    Whatever the ethics of climate change and mitigation, surely the ends should not justify the means – which was really what my letter to councillors was about – and this continues to vex many people besides my elderly self.


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